US vs Huawei: Why the Chinese telecom giant has been asked to leave
- The US government took notice in 2017 after China offered to build a garden in Washington DC
- Congress passed a $1.9 billion bill to remove all Huawei equipment from rural parts of the country
- Two years later, no progress has been made but a new investigation has been opened
The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently found equipment made by Huawei that are allegedly able to harvest commercial data. Not just that, but apparently, these devices are able to disrupt U.S. nuclear communications too.
In 2017, the Chinese government offered to build an ornate Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C., spending $100 million of its own money to see the project through. However, according to a report from CNN, the intelligence agencies delved into the project and found numerous issues. Prime amongst them was the location of the proposed project, which was supposed to be at the highest point in Washington D.C., a mere two miles from Capitol Hill making it a prime spot for gathering intelligence.
In addition, the Chinese government sought to transfer the materials for the project via diplomatic pouches, which U.S. customs officials are barred from checking. According to CNN, the garden project was nixed by officials before the project could get underway.
Government officials from the intelligence agencies and armed forces began to perk up right around the time that Huawei began to sell its equipment for very cheap rates to rural service providers. Equipment which was eventually placed near military bases.
U.S. officials have reported an increase in attempted Chinese espionage in the last few years. It’s not just telecommunications equipment, since 2017, the government has investigated land purchases made by Chinese officials and organisations near critical infrastructure. So much so that the government shut down a regional consulate after it became apparent that alleged spies inside the compound were trying to plant listening devices near military and government facilities.
The Chinese government, on its part has denied these allegations and maintains that it does not interfere with Huawei’s equipment. The telecom company also made the same statement, saying that it doesn’t have the technology to do so. However, anonymous officials within the government told CNN that the Huawei equipment can not only tap into civilian communications bands, but is able to intercept the airwaves used by the military. The equipment also has the capability to disrupt U.S. Strategic Command, potenitally offering China a backdoor into America’s nuclear arsenal.
Following the investigation, which is still ongoing, Congress approved a bill that banning Chinese telecom equipment in the country, which included Huawei and other similar Chinese-brands. Congress hadn’t been notified of these issues until 2019. The bill was passed by them in 2020, approving a $1.9 billion order to remove China-made Huawei and ZTE technology, another Chinese company across rural parts of the country.
However, two years later, there has been little progress and rural telecom companies are sitting around waiting for their federal reimbursement money. The Federal Communications Commission has said that it will reimburse companies 40% of the cost of the equipment removed.
When the Biden administration took over in 2021, they launched an investigation to determine whether more action was required. In the recent months, American intelligence agencies have taken to issuing public notices about the threats of Chinese hacking. While some may call it paranoia, the rationale is justified. Especially since it was revealed North Korean hackers had been targeting healthcare systems across the U.S. with their ransoms being laundered by China-based groups.
On the other hand, detractors of the U.S. government’s current policy towards China call it xenophobic. Perhaps there is a case to be made, but critics say that the government has failed to provide any sort of evidence to back up these claims. The lack of evidence raises the question about if the government has failed to recognise the difference between legitimate Chinese investment and espionage