Report: Huawei employees conducted research with Chinese military

Report: Huawei employees conducted research with Chinese military

FORUM Staff

The largest telecommunications company in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) collaborated with the Chinese military on at least 10 projects over the past decade, indicating that Huawei Technologies Co. is more closely intertwined with the government than company officials have acknowledged.

A June 2019 report by Bloomberg News disclosed that Huawei employees worked with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on research projects that involved a wide array of technologies, including artificial intelligence and radio communications. Huawei employees worked with the investigative branch of the PRC’s Central Military Commission to “extract and classify emotions in online video comments” and on another initiative with the National University of Defense Technology to find ways to collect and analyze satellite images and geographic coordinates, Bloomberg reported.

The report comes while the U.S. is imposing strict limits on Huawei’s ability to do business with U.S. companies because the administration views Huawei as a national security threat due in part to its close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Billionaire company founder Ren Zhengfei is a party loyalist who worked in communications during his military career in China.

Despite the concerns expressed by the U.S., Huawei officials repeatedly have denied that they would turn information over to the Chinese government or engage in espionage. The company’s legal chief told CNBC that Huawei does not sanction cooperation with the Chinese military and does not customize products for military use. Huawei makes “solutions for civil use,” Song Liuping said.

Bloomberg’s research raised questions about such claims, however. The news agency culled papers from periodicals and online research databases used by industry experts and Chinese academics. The authors of the papers identified themselves as Huawei employees, Bloomberg reported, and the company name was prominently listed on the papers.

The study on the classification of emotions expressed online, for example, lists Shanghai-based Huawei employee Li Hui as the lead author. The video study focused on improving the accuracy of language-processing algorithms, Bloomberg reported.

Li identified his or her employer as Shanghai Huawei Technology Co. The three co-researchers were from the PLA’s Central Committee, an information technology research lab and another military unit, according to Bloomberg. The National 242 Information Security Project, a program created by Beijing to support security research efforts, funded the project.

While Huawei controversy continues to swirl, U.S. President Donald Trump announced at the G20 summit in Japan that he would ease one restriction and allow U.S. companies to continue to sell parts and components to Huawei. The administration’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, told CBS News that the president’s decision only applied to “general merchandise.” Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, described the merchandise as “various chips and software and other services that are available all around the world, not specific to the U.S.”

“The president is not backing off on the national security concerns. We understand the huge risks regarding Huawei,” Kudlow said, adding that talks with the PRC over Huawei continue. “The last word is not going to come till the very end of the talks.”

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