US ratchets up pressure to rip and replace Huawei kit

Recent reports from anonymous sources claim Huawei kit installed near US military facilities ‘could’ intercept and disrupt military communications.

Late last week Reuters had two of those little birds whispering in its ear to that effect. Then, yesterday, CNN got an exclusive that an ‘FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications’. Once more, the sources were anonymous, but the nature of the information strongly implies they were government and/or state security insiders.

Since the US is already in the process of forcing the removal of all Huawei kit from its turf on national security grounds, it’s not obvious what the government or spooks (assuming they’re the sources) think they stand to gain by feeding exclusives like these to the media. Our best guess is that it’s an attempt to pressure operators into swallowing the majority of the cost of ripping and replacing Huawei kit from their networks. If not that, then to pressure politicians into signing off the extra cash.

Chinese state controlled media the Global Times is predictably derisory about the stories, referring to the reported further probes into potential security risks posed by Huawei as ‘old tricks’ with the underlying intention of curbing China’s development. GT’s sources, which we also assume to be from some branch of the state, are hilariously referred to as ‘experts’. That same pool of totally objective, unaffiliated experts also dismissed the premise of the CNN report as ‘an ignorant assumption’.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t necessarily as big a difference between overtly state-controlled media like GT and ‘independent’ organizations like CNN. While there is no proof that US media is controlled by organs of the state, there have been plenty of allegations that the relationship is often more cozy than it should be. If governments can be sure their media will faithfully report whatever they ‘leak’ to them, then there’s no need for direct control.

And just because GT is more formally affiliated to the Chinese state, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. The US government has made it clear for some time that it wants to use aggressive trade policy to constrain Chinese technological development. These leaks come at a time when that strategy seems to be failing. Coincidentally, US ally Germany has chosen this moment to reassess Huawei on national security grounds.

If these stories really are an attempt to bully smaller US operators into submitting to the unilateral will of the US state without even getting the compensation that was promised when the rip and replace scheme was first announced then they should be called out as such. The US government has no problem finding billions of dollars whenever a pet project needs funding and there’s no excuse for treating some of its own companies so poorly. It’s almost like it wants to force them out of business.


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