Washington’s campaign to get European allies to join in a fight against Chinese telecommunications gear-maker Huawei has hit some stumbling blocks lately. And what had been billed as a prime time heavyweight matchup this week is now looking like a one-sided blowout.
In advance of the week-long exhibition now underway, some industry executives had dubbed this year’s Mobile World Congress as “the Battle of Barcelona” – a reference to delegations of US officials descending on the event to urge companies against using Huawei products.
But before Washington’s representatives even got a microphone (which they only managed in a figurative sense), Huawei executives came out swinging.
On Tuesday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping asked an audience at the conference to “choose Huawei for greater security,” dredging up the case of US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“Prism, prism on the wall. Who’s the most trustworthy of them all? It’s an important question to ask. And if you don’t understand this question, go ask Edward Snowden,” Guo said, referencing the former CIA employee and NSA contractor who revealed global surveillance operations of the US.
“We can’t use prisms, crystal balls, or politics to manage cybersecurity. It’s a challenge we all share,” Guo said.
As a long-time sponsor of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker, and the developer behind the most-anticipated mobile device to be unveiled at the event, Huawei’s presence is dominant.
The Chinese firm’s supposed opponent in the much-anticipated fight, however, entered the arena with less swagger.
According to an account from The Wall Street Journal, a delegation from the US, “borrowed a booth from the event organizers for its Tuesday news conference, which officials conducted without a podium or microphone, sometimes struggling to be heard over the conference din.”
One top US State Department official, ambassador for cyber and international communications Robert Strayer, told reporters at the event that using Huawei equipment for 5G infrastructure would be a security risk and eschewing it would not delay the deployment of 5G. He also characterized Huawei as “duplicitous and deceitful.”
Meanwhile, Huawei touted that of 30 commercial contracts for 5G signed already, 18 are with operators in Europe.