Leaders from the United States and Australia, two leading first-world countries, pushed back against untrustworthy Chinese companies poised to profit from providing high-speed 5G services to their enemies. At issue are concerns over national security – cyberspying. Both countries passed laws to ban commerce with telecommunications companies from the Communist regime.
In August 2018, the Australian government stated it would not allow smartphone maker Huawei and telco equipment and systems company ZTE to build 5G networks in the Land Downunder due to national security concerns.
A tweet from ZTE sidestepped the revenue hit this move created and implied that the Australian people would be the losers under this new deal, thanks to their elected officials:
“This is an extremely disappointing result for consumers.”
At the time, Huawei produced most of the world’s telecom equipment, ranking second in global smartphone sales behind Samsung and ahead of Apple.
The previous month, a government report from the United Kingdom looked into Huawei’s broadband and mobile infrastructure equipment and expressed “only limited assurance” that the systems posed no threat to national security.
The UK report, prepared by security officials at the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Center (HCSEC), exposed “shortcomings in the Chinese firm’s engineering processes” had introduced new risks in national telecom networks that would require “significant work” to iron out.
A spokesperson for Huawei admitted that “some areas for improvement” did exist, expressed thanks for the constructive criticism, and vowed to resolve every issue:
“Cyber-security remains Huawei’s top priority, and we will continue to actively improve our engineering processes and risk management systems.”
A 2017 trip to Shenzhen in China uncovered fatal flaws in Huawei’s manufacturing process because in particular, security-critical third-party software used in a variety of products was not subject to sufficient control.”
Alan Woodward, security expert and former consultant to UK’s Government Communications Headquarters, voiced his concerns over using the Chinese company’s gear:
“It’s difficult not to conclude that Huawei appears to be falling short in doing what is required to enable the UK government to confidently give the green light to use its equipment in critical areas.”
When in doubt, shut them out, advised Woodward:
“If the UK cannot be totally confident in the assuring the security of any equipment it should not be placed in our critical infrastructure.”
Software controls 5G telecommunications networks more than previous generations of wireless transmission, raising concerns who is managing the network and from where?
The Australian government cited a conflict of interest between the Communist Chinese companies and the best interests of the Aussies since those organizations are “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government.”
Chinese law forces companies to co-operate with Communist Party intelligence services. Equipment provided by telecom network providers such as Huawei and ZTE could be compromised – stolen.
Lu Kang, speaking for the Chinese foreign ministry, tsk-tsked the Australian officials and chastised them for using “various excuses to artificially erect barriers.” Australia would be well-advised, according to the Chinese spy-merchants to “abandon ideological prejudices and provide a fair competitive environment for Chinese companies.”
In May 2019, U.S. President Trump signed an executive order banning Chinese companies from developing 5G networks stateside. A White House statement explained:
“The president has made it clear that this administration will do what it takes to keep America safe and prosperous, and to protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States.”
The presidential order authorizes the Secretary of Commerce “to prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.”
While China is not mentioned explicitly in Trump’s 2019 executive protectionary ban on “foreign adversaries,” many observers assumed that China would be at the top of that list.
James Andrew Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 5G. The expert on the controversial new wifi technology revealed why many people think rolling it out anywhere, by anyone, is folly and may well doom us all:
“4G is your smartphone. That means all your apps, but it is not that sensitive for the most part. A parking app, or a dating app, or a reservation app for an airline or a restaurant, those are all helpful. However, with 5G, it’s going to be more than your phone. It’s going to be smart cars, telemedicine, smart factories. So 5G extends the app economy into this huge range of devices. It’s the thing that will power the ‘Internet of Things.'”
Like that’s supposed to make us feel better?