We are not spying on you, Huawei man claims
Stung by ongoing criticism it is a front for Chinese spies, telecommunications giant Huawei is on a global charm offensive to convince its critics it is a good corporate citizen.
The message is delivered by Huawei's vice-president of Corporate Media Affairs, Scott Sykes, an affable American on a whistle stop trip to New Zealand.
“We’re doing our best to be more open and transparent because we acknowledge that in the past we haven’t done a great job of that,” Mr Sykes told NBR ONLINE.
“We’re actually producing an annual report now despite the fact that we don’t have to as we’re not a public company, but we’re trying to communicate in many ways that a public company would.”
That Huawei are using the services of an American to spread the message is no accident.
It was the US House of Representatives intelligence committee which late last year warned the government and companies against doing business with Huawei and another leading Chinese technology firm ZTE.
The committee said after a year-long investigation it had come to the conclusion Huawei and ZTE were a national security threat because of their attempts to extract sensitive information from US companies.
The committee was also concerned about their loyalties to the Chinese government, which, it claimed, had heavily subsidised them.
Huawei, which is involved in the $1.35 billion ultrafast broadband project in New Zealand, has copped flak here.
Auckland-based defence analyst Paul Buchanan told NBR ONLINE last year that Huawei is "almost certainly" a front for Chinese intelligence.
Dr Buchanan, who worked for the US Department of Defence before migrating to New Zealand, believes Huawei could be intent on tapping into the top-secret Echelon intelligence network in which New Zealand exchanges highly classified information with the US, Britain, Australia and Canada.
However, adopting his "folks have nothing to fear" stance, Huawei’s Mr Sykes vigorously denies all such allegations, saying they are “unfounded, unsubstantiated and unfortunate”.
“We are a 100% employee-owned company and there is zero per cent ownership by the Chinese government.
“We operate in 140 countries around the world and there has never been a security issue of any kind in our history.
“We have grown into a company with $US35 billion of revenue and it would simply be impossible to grow to a company of that size unless people trusted us, our technology and our products,” he says.
So why does the US House of Representatives think they are up to no good?
Mr Sykes is in no doubt about that.
“The challenges we face in the US are largely about trade protectionism.
“It’s not about the security of Huawei’s equipment, which does not have security issues of any kind.”
Mr Sykes says the US report was “based on accusations based on accusations and unsubstantiated suspicions”.
“There’s a 55-page report that was done but there is little substance or proof regarding the security assurance of Huawei equipment.”
He says independent tests “inside the source code” of Huawei equipment have been carried out in the UK and nothing untoward has been found.
“We also do independent testing with companies like Electronic Warfare Associates.
“So we give out our source code at great risk to our company, but we want to show that we are confident in the security assurance of our equipment, so the US position is all about trade protectionism.
“Today we have less than 1% of market share in the telecom equipment market there whereas in some countries we have 20% or 30%.”
Mr Sykes says Huawei must accept some responsibility for countries like the US being suspicious about its activities.
“We have to do better at communicating, at being open and transparent.
“For much of our history up until about five years ago we didn’t do a good job of this because we’re a business-to-business company.
“Normally, there are two, three or four incumbent telcos in every country and it’s a direct relationship – we know each other well and that’s what matters.
“But in the last five years we’ve done much better at being more open and upfront and now communicate in many ways that a public company would.”