The United States has significantly ratcheted up its trade war with China in recent weeks by firing two new shots. First, President Trump signed an executive order that is expected to restrict Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE Corp. from selling their equipment and services in the United States.
Latest in Huawei
Today, Lawfare published an article by Alexei Bulazel, Sophia d’Antoine, Perri Adams and Dave Aitel on “The Risks of Huawei Risk Mitigation” that seemingly disagrees with an earlier piece of mine on the topic.
While there is widespread agreement that Huawei devices in 5G infrastructure pose some risk to the U.S. and allied nations, the policy community—in particular the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre—has paid insufficient attention to the technical aspects. The discussion must examine not simply whether China would use this technology maliciously, but the specific threats that Huawei equipment could pose and the extent to which these threats can be mitigated.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed last week on CNBC that U.S. and Chinese negotiators have reached agreement on an “enforcement mechanism” as part of negotiations over a bilateral trade deal. Mnuchin specified that both sides “will establish enforcement offices that will deal” with matters of compliance.
As the competition for 5G continues, one of the largest players, Chinese company Huawei Technologies, is facing concerns from numerous countries that using Huawei equipment exposes their national networks to spying or worse by the Chinese government.
Is Huawei a ‘Foreign Power’ or an ‘Agent of a Foreign Power’ Under FISA? Insights From the Sanctions Case
[Update: Several colleagues have pointed out that I did not make sufficiently clear that there is an alternate (and much less intriguing) explanation for the 1806(c) notices here.
In a letter released Wednesday, six former combatant commanders and intelligence chiefs outlined “grave concerns” about risks posed by Chinese-developed 5G networks, including espionage, constraints on U.S. military operations, and threats to democracy and human rights. The letter is available here and below.
Based on cybersecurity concerns, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have staked out policy positions that prevent or strongly discourage the acquisition of Huawei 5G technology for use in the national communications infrastructure of these nations. Other U.S. allies have announced or are considering policy positions that do not go so far and would indeed allow such acquisition at least to some extent.
Huawei has filed suit against the United States, alleging that provisions of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act restricting use of Huawei equipment and services by government agencies and contractors constitute an unconstitutional bill of attainder against the company. The lawsuit comes after high-profile indictments of the company and its Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in recent weeks.
The U.S. criminal case against Huawei for sanctions-busting and fraud, and against its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, for fraud, may prove an example of geopolitical “lawfare,” fought on many fronts.