Huawei has been under scrutiny since at least 2011 for its allegedly close ties to the Chinese government. Some US lawmakers and intelligence officials think that Huawei’s hardware could also provide a backdoor for China’s massive and sophisticated state surveillance apparatus.
Huawei is a major global technology company, but it isn’t as well known in the U.S. since most of its products aren’t sold there. Here’s a quick briefing on what you need to know.
Shenzhen-based Huawei (pronounced: wah-way) is the world’s second largest seller of phones behind Samsung, according to IDC. It’s best known for making high-end phones with appealing designs and premium hardware features that rival devices from Samsung and Apple.
While global consumers — especially those in China — may know the brand best for its consumer electronics, which also include laptops, tablets and TVs, Huawei’s history is in providing telecommunications equipment. Put simply, Huawei also sells some of the hardware that lets your phone connect to wireless networks.
It used to sell gear to U.S. wireless carriers, too, but that ended more than a decade ago. More on that next.
Back in 2012, U.S. lawmakers began to work to prevent American wireless carriers from buying equipment from Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company. The U.S. government was concerned about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government and worried that equipment from both companies could eventually be a national security threat if it was deployed across the United States.
Those ties to the Chinese military begin with the CEO. Huawei’s founder, billionaire Ren Zhengfei, was an engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army before he left the service in 1983 and started Huawei four years later. Huawei has always denied its equipment is any more vulnerable to spying than that provided by other companies.
Most recently, AT&T abandoned its plans to launch a Huawei flagship smartphone in the U.S. in January. The Information news site reported at the time that AT&T canceled the launch after the House and Senate Intelligence committees raised concerns over the partnership.
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Why The US Thinks Huawei Is A National Security Threat