Huawei expands propaganda campaign amid criminal charges
Telecom giant Huawei, which is controlled by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), has stepped up its propaganda campaign to defend itself against multiple criminal indictments by the U.S. government accusing it of helping the PRC to spy on the United States.
Huawei’s increasingly intense media and lobbying effort is likely because company officials, connected to the PRC, realize the related legal battles will be lengthy and likely are not winnable, analysts said in September 2019.
The U.S. Department of Justice unveiled more than 20 criminal charges against Huawei, its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhouand its affiliates in January 2019, including 10 counts of theft of trade secrets, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and violating sanctions against Iran, CBS News reported. The U.S. House Committee on Intelligence first officially accused Huawei of spying in 2012, according to The New York Timesnewspaper. Reports by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2009 and by the Rand Corp. in 2005 detailed Huawei’s significant connections to the PRC’s military.
Huawei is running a Twitter campaign called @HuaweiFacts to defend itself against its alleged complicity in PRC spying efforts, according to a newsletter published by The Washington Postnewspaper in several September 2019 articles. In recent months, Huawei has been directly contacting U.S. companies and trying to persuade them that it will protect them from spying by the PRC. Its officials also are attending conventions to sell industry on their position, according to The Cybersecurity 202, the Post’s emailed newsletter on cyber security policy news.
Huawei’s public relations campaign is directed not only at the U.S. but also at the global marketplace to attempt to repair its reputation, the newsletter said. (Pictured: Huawei participates in the IFA consumer electronics tech fair in Berlin, Germany, on September 6, 2019.)
In early September 2019, Huawei’s propaganda machine went on the attack, making spurious claims in a news release that the U.S. government was “launching cyberattacks to infiltrate Huawei’s intranet and international information systems” and had pushed its employees “to turn against the company,” the newsletter reported, although the company produced no evidence to support such claims.
The spike in company rhetoric was likely timed ahead of the latest court activity. Arguments got underway in a U.S. District Court in Texas on September 19, 2019, in a lawsuit filed by Huawei in March 2019 alleging that portions of the 2019 U.S. National Defense Authorization Act are unconstitutional, according to The Wall Street Journalnewspaper.
“My sense is they never really thought they were going to win this case, but it’s part of a broader PR campaign, probably directed both domestically inside of China and to potential Huawei partners in Europe, Latin American and other places,” Adam Segal, a cyber security and China policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Cybersecurity 202 in mid-September 2019. “They want to paint the picture that the U.S. is trying to crush Huawei, and Huawei is fighting back.”
Kaspersy Lab, a Russian anti-virus technology company that the U.S. banned from government computer networks, failed to make a similar legal argument in 2018, according to Bloomberg news.
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys argued that the U.S. Congress had more than enough national security reasons for the legislation, which restricts federal agencies and contractors from using routers and other equipment produced by Huawei and China’s ZTE Corp. The PRC could readily exploit Huawei, which is under Chinese law and connected to the country, receiving tax breaks and research support, attorney Emily Newton told the court, The Wall Street Journal reported. U.S. attorneys are pushing for the lawsuit to be thrown out.
U.S. officials have long argued that Huawei technologies could readily be used for illegal surveillance by the PRC. The case only addresses the constitutional question of the action by the U.S. Congress. The various criminal cases against Huawei are still pending.
In the meantime, the U.S. has implemented other measures to protect itself. The U.S. Commerce Department placed Huawei on its “entity list” in May 2019 to limit the company’s ability to buy U.S. components and software. The Trump administration also banned U.S. firms from using telecom equipment manufactured by companies beholden to “foreign adversaries,” Bloomberg reported.
Like the United States, Australia and Poland have also effectively banned Huawei from their 5G infrastructure. Many other countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America have restricted use of Huawei products in key networks and beefed up security protocols to protect against back doors in Huawei systems, according to media reports.