When Washington warned its allies that the Chinese government is using Huawei in its military efforts, especially in espionage and economic sabotage, there could be some truth in it amidst Huawei’s strong denial of the matter.
It has recently been found out that some of the employees from the controversial Chinese smartphone maker have been collaborating with the Chinese government for its artificial intelligence and communication efforts. Some experts found this fact as an indication that Huawei has a relationship with Beijing beyond what it admits.
Some employees worked on military AI and communication projects
Over the past ten years, employees from Huawei has been commissioned by the People’s Liberation Army on at least ten research projects spanning artificial intelligence to radio communications. And these projects aren’t just simple AI development — they are groundbreaking.
The Huawei employees have been involved in a joint project with China’s armed forces’ supreme body, Central Military Commission. The investigative branch of the body and some employees from the tech giant worked on projects to extract and classify emotions in online video comments.
Furthermore, the said employees also joined forces with the elite National University of Defense Technology to find new ways to collect, discover, and analyze satellite images and geographical coordinates.
The two projects are just a few of the publicly disclosed studies involving Huawei’s employees and the Chinese military that has a plethora of military and espionage applications.
The researchers involved in the study have been identifying themselves as employees of Huawei and the company name, including its logo, are prominently displayed on top of the papers discovered by journalists from published periodicals and online research databases used mainly by Chinese academics and industry specialists.
Huawei says they didn’t know
But Huawei denies that they have the know-how of what their employees are doing — that, they are collaborating with the military to develop technologies that can potentially be used in military operations.
“Huawei is not aware of its employees publishing research papers in their individual capacity,” spokesman Glenn Schloss said in a messaged statement. “Huawei does not have any R&D collaboration or partnerships with the PLA-affiliated institutions,” he said. “Huawei only develops and produces communications products that conform to civil standards worldwide, and does not customize R&D products for the military.”
Huawei Chief Legal Officer Song Liuping on Thursday reaffirmed the spokesman’s comments. “Huawei doesn’t customize products nor provide research for the military,” he told reporters in Shenzhen. “We are not aware of the papers some employees have published. We don’t have such joint-research projects” with the PLA.
No response from the military has yet been released. Nonetheless, what the discovered project documents have shown is just an overlap in the workforce that employees from Huawei are also working for the military. It still doesn’t prove that Huawei, indeed, is working with the military as the United States claimed.
US claims against Huawei
The United States has been vocal regarding it’s warning against the company and accused it of being a Trojan horse for the Chinese authoritarian government, and the potential of it to be used for espionage and controlling sensitive communication lines.
Trump’s administration has launched a global campaign warning other governments and urging them to ban Huawei’s technology, especially that it has recently unveiled its 5G tech, which experts expect that they would lead.
American officials have pushed hard on the message of security risks from Huawei’s close ties with the Chinese government saying that the potential risk is not just about espionage and data security but the possibility of intervening in sensitive communications as well.
“With the transformational critical services that 5G will empower, we cannot risk having those services being disrupted or manipulated by authoritarian regimes,” Strayer said. “Those concerns are in addition to the diversion of sensitive personal and business data that authoritarian regimes have already shown they have an interest in acquiring by cyber means.”
Huawei has strenuously denied these allegations and has even launched a global reputation campaign where the usually-private CEO has been on a series of talks and interviews lately, and the company has opened its gates to journalists. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang insisted on Friday that China would ‘never’ ask its firms to spy on other nations.
However, contrary to the statements of Beijing’s Li, a recent law was enacted in China obliging Chinese companies and firms to aid the government on national security. The enactment of the current legislation has added to the West’s concerns that Huawei could be used by the Chinese government to spy on other countries.