Business / Corporate

Huawei ready to work with foreign nations to ease security concerns, senior executive says

by Tomoyuki Tachikawa

Kyodo

China’s tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. is ready to work together with foreign nations to eliminate security concerns, a company executive said Tuesday, amid lingering anxiety that its products may facilitate spying.

Depending on the situation in each country, Huawei would, if necessary, make its source code available to other nations in addition to taking security measures, Senior Vice President John Suffolk said in an interview with Kyodo News.

He also emphasized that the company has not received any request by the Chinese government to share confidential information, again brushing aside rumors that Huawei has engaged in spying activities.

“We are open to have the conversation about what is the right model” to verify the security of Huawei products, Suffolk said at one of the firm’s facilities in Dongguan, adding, “And if the source code is the right model, then we’ll work out how best to do that.”

Huawei has proposed that Japan alone should assess the security of products and services of the manufacturer, while vowing to disclose its source code to Tokyo, a Japanese government source said.

Suffolk said Huawei has so far provided its source code to countries including Britain, Canada and Germany, but stressed that different nations have different ways of evaluating the safety of Huawei goods.

“Each individual country should validate by themselves,” Suffolk said, adding, “There is not one model of validation that all of our customers would accept.”

His remarks came as the U.S. administration led by President Donald Trump has been pushing allies, such as Japan, to exclude Huawei — a leader in next-generation 5G mobile communications networks — from government contracts.

No evidence has been found to confirm that the Chinese government has stolen confidential information from abroad through products made by Huawei, which was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in the Chinese military.

Suffolk quoted Ren as saying, “If ever he was asked by the Chinese government to do something that he thought was inappropriate, like handing over data or building back doors, he would blankly refuse to do that. If he was pressurized to do that, he would close the company down.”

But fears about espionage by Chinese firms are unlikely to fade anytime soon, given that the government and enterprises have close links in China, a country that is ruled by the Communist Party alone.

Trump, who has pursued protectionist policies as part of an “America First” agenda, has, meanwhile, voiced wariness over Beijing’s rise in state-of-the-art technologies, with Washington having targeted Chinese goods related to them in their trade dispute.

“It isn’t a security debate. It’s a political issue. And it’s not for us to say what is driving that political decision,” Suffolk said. “The only thing I would say to people is governments should make decisions that are in the best interest of their citizens, not another country.”

“If a country feels pressurized to make a decision to please America, that’s not bettering the advancement of their citizens,” he said.

With speculation growing that Huawei could be blocked from accessing the globally used Android system operated by U.S. technology firm Google LLC, it announced early last month that it has developed its own operating system.

“When we created Harmony OS, it was not for the smartphone. It was predominantly for smart devices like ‘IoT’ (‘internet of things’) and smart TVs,” Suffolk said.

“In an ideal world, we would prefer to continue to use Android on our smartphones. We have worked heavily with Google for the last 10 years,” he said. But if Washington closes down access to it, “we will look at Harmony OS … to make sure it will run on our smartphones.”

5G technology will enable transmission of large amounts of data at extremely high speeds, allowing telecommunication devices to connect to almost all products and services, including those related to military affairs, through the wireless network.