Faced with a complete lack of proof that Huawei has been a tool for the Chinese government to spy on Americans, US senators are asking telcos nicely not to buy from the outfit.
US lawmakers are urging AT&T to cut all commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei and are fighting plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the US market because of national security concerns.
The fact that the US telcos were caught out assisting the US spying effort and proof has been absent that Huawei has done anything similar does not appear to matter much.
The administration of US President Donald Trump historically does not trust the Chinese and the issue is not really about spying but competition. His former adviser Steve Bannon blamed George W Bush who believed that China would become a free market democracy if the US helped them with trade deals, but that was “dead wrong”.
“It’s [China’s] world now,” he said. “They’re saying, hey, the game’s over.”
Bannon might have gone, but the fear of China has not departed from the White House.
Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators.
The US government has also blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions citing national security concerns, including Ant Financial’s proposed purchase of US money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc.
The lawmakers are also threatening US companies that if they have ties to Huawei or China Mobile, it could hamper their ability to do business with the US government.
One of the commercial ties senators and House members want AT&T to cut is its collaboration with Huawei over standards for the high-speed next-generation 5G network, the aides said. Another is the use of Huawei handsets by AT&T’s discount subsidiary Cricket, the aides said.
Huawei told Reuters that it sells its equipment through more than 45 of the world’s top 50 carriers and puts the privacy and security of its customers as its top priority.
In fact, it sells rather a lot of gear to the US’s NATO partners including the UK.
Huawei and Chinese telecom firms have long struggled to gain a toehold in the US market, partly because of the US government pressure on potential partners.
Two Republican lawmakers, Representatives Michael Conaway and Liz Cheney, introduced a bill this week that bars the US government from using or contracting with Huawei or ZTE Corp, a Chinese telecommunications and equipment and systems company.