National security threat justifies proceeding with caution.
In a lawsuit filed this March, Huawei claims the provision outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019 (Sec. 889) are unconstitutional. Chief legal officer, Song Liuping, is calling the ban a quintessential example of a “bill of attainder” and a violation of due process. If this sounds familiar, over just one year ago, the failed Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky made the same argument and failed, also citing the NDAA.
The suit stemmed from President Trump’s executive order targeting Chinese telecom company, Huawei, banning the purchase and sale of telecom equipment between the United States and other countries that pose national security threats. The bans follows nearly two decades of security and trade violations that landed Huawei on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List requiring specific government approval for business interactions.
Then, the Department of Defense (DoD) delayed the ban for 90 days, temporarily lifting restrictions, allowing Huawei to purchase American-made technologies for use in their existing networks.
The rollback came after concerns that the ban might have future unintended consequences for technological innovation, economic growth, and U.S.-China relations. Other concerns included implications for small businesses; more pressing matters concern Chinese tech independence and global leadership.
On the other hand, the government, policy experts, and the tech industry have raised concerns over national security implications and intellectual property rights (IP).
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Geoffrey Starks, in an interview with Fox News, voiced apprehension over the increasing scope of Huawei equipment in the U.S. Of the major concerns, he addressed espionage and the potential for Chinese companies to manipulate and disrupt communication networks during times of emergency.
In early June, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R- Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressured the DoD to investigate the cybersecurity threat of Huawei and ZTE on the coattails of their memberships to the Wireless Innovation Forum.
Tension between U.S.-China relations following the bans are intensified by President Trump’s front to push international allies to follow suit, and his declaration of a national emergency. Additionally, foreign governments and cybersecurity officials are calling on Huawei to revisit its lacking security measures and objectives.
U.S. tech companies that provide software to power Huawei devices have taken a strong stance on ending Huawei relationships, putting pressure on the company’s goals for international expansion. While the decision to ban Huawei has received much criticism, the move serves as an international frontier for pushing back on Chinese dependence and economic decoupling.
Concerns over a tech “cold war” are rumored in the media while others say the ban is nothing more than a tactic in the trade war. The chairman of Huawei, Liang Hua, has offered “no-spy agreements” to drop the digital iron curtain in exchange. This is dubious at best.
Huawei has demonstrated a track record of broken promises and failed GOP national security investigations. The Administration should also be weary of a 2017 Chinese law urging Chinese citizens to provide detailed intelligence to the government.
In dealing with Huawei, we should proceed with caution.