The net appears to be closing on Huawei. On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for safeguards to ensure that China’s tech titans, such as the massive telecom group, do not exploit security loopholes.
Speaking at the Keio University in Tokyo, Merkel confirmed there were growing concerns in the European Union about using Huawei equipment when building super-fast 5G networks.
So far, Germany has taken a pragmatic approach to the poster child of the “Made in China 2025” policy, insisting there was no evidence that the company uses its equipment to spy for Beijing.
Still, Merkel made it clear that she will talk to President Xi Jinping’s government “to make sure that the company does not simply give up all data that is used to the Chinese state” … and “that there are safeguards.”
“When [Huawei is] working in Germany, the Chinese state [must not be allowed to] access the data on all Chinese products,” she said during a two-day visit to Japan, which included trade talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Created by billionaire businessman Ren Zhengfei, the family-run company has come under intense scrutiny about cybersecurity and perceived links to Xi’s administration.
Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom have restricted market access, according to media reports.
Last month, the United States Justice Department announced sweeping charges against Huawei, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice and technology theft.
Key accusations revolve around violations of US sanctions on Iran, an allegation which has been leveled against Chief Financial Officer Meng Wenzhou, the daughter of Ren.
She was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 and could face extradition to the US.
Meng and the company have categorically denied the charges.
“[They] expose Huawei’s brazen and persistent actions to exploit American companies and financial institutions, and to threaten the free and fair global marketplace,” Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said at the end of January.
Yet for Beijing, the Huawei controversy is just part of a broader plan by Washington to contain China’s rise as a major technological power.
Indeed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came out with a robust response last month after accusing the US of using “state power to discredit and crack down on specific Chinese companies.”
“[This is] an attempt to strangle the enterprises’ legitimate and legal operations,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a statement. “There are strong political motivations and political manipulations behind the actions.”
But, significantly, major developed nations are starting to question the group’s perceived close links to the ruling Communist Party.
“This will continue to be debated and discussed, and it is also part of the discussion with the United States,” Merkel said.