Huawei, the Chinese tech giant that’s accused of spying and violating sanctions against Iran, has decided to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government.
In the wake of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, the complaint would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. But the stakes are very high.
Serious Threat to Users
Huawei is leading the 5G deployment for much of the world, and wants to lead it in the United States as well. What’s more, it is suspected that the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment has or could have installed spyware in hardware systems they’ve supplied for use in U.S. infrastructure, including communications, power grids, nuclear plants, and air traffic control, among others.
The threat that Huawei presents to the United States has reached the point where Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have warned other nations that using Huawei equipment will make it difficult for them to work with the United States. Other countries in Europe and elsewhere have concerns about Huawei as well, including Germany and Poland, where two Huawei employees—one a former Chinese diplomat—were recently arrested for alleged espionage.
An Arm of Chinese Regime
Huawei’s suit against the U.S. government claims that the ban against it is unconstitutional.
The 5G infrastructure and smartphone provider is challenging the constitutionality of Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It seeks a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction against the restrictions because, the company claims, they would leave the U.S. market with “inferior products” that will cost consumers more.
That part may well be true, but there’s much more going on. Huawei has long been considered an arm of the Chinese regime—that is, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—and has been accused by U.S. authorities of spying and gathering technical and defense-related data from the United States and elsewhere for years. Those suspicions go back to at least 2012 and most likely the Clinton administration.
State, Private Ownership Blurred
But both Huawei and the CCP deny any connection to the other. That may sound far-fetched—and it is—but the Chinese regime is acting as if Huawei were some isolated company, standing alone in its righteous fight against the United States. And on the face of it, Huawei insists that it’s an independent, employee-owned company.
But that doesn’t matter in the slightest and is simply a denial of reality. Does anyone on the planet believe that a company of Huawei’s size, capabilities, and scope would be left to act alone, without CCP influence?
The fact is that the CCP uses a variety of ways to direct the behavior of “privately held” companies. A few include industrial associations, which are typically run by former ministers or other Party members to keep firms in line with CCP dictates. Regular interviews with the NDRC, China’s chief economic planning agency, are also highly effective. And, of course, the CCP has the power —and uses it—to force private firms to cooperate in state-led restructuring programs.
When it comes to Huawei’s behavior, just like any other company, person, or group in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), their actions are directed and sanctioned by the CCP. This is especially true, given the broad diplomatic and strategic impact of Huawei’s actions. This private company behaves as a state-sponsored actor on the world stage.
Reveal US Monitoring Techniques
Given that several countries around the world are sounding the alarm about the espionage risk (and loss of jobs) that Huawei poses to them, what does the company hope to gain from a lawsuit it will likely lose?
First, it isn’t about winning the case. The suit itself is a canvas on which China wishes to paint the United States in a negative light to the international community, specifically the European Union (EU). It’s a propaganda opportunity to sow division between the United States and its European allies, politically and–specifically—economically. With the United States trying to convince the EU to trade less with China and more with America, China’s response is understandable.
Secondly, the main point of attack of the lawsuit is U.S. security laws, as Huawei claims that the U.S. government uses national security as cover for its trade war with China. If the lawsuit hinders the Trump administration’s trade policy toward China, so much the better. Is that likely? One would hope not.
But ultimately, Huawei’s strategy is to get the United States to reveal its secrets. China wants to know how the United States monitors what companies like Huawei do. Therefore, the value in the lawsuit for Huawei is the disclosure process.
The company’s chief legal officer, Song Liuping, all but acknowledged that in a recent news conference, when he said that the ban on Huawei in the United States is “based on numerous false, unproven and untested propositions.” Huawei has an excellent security record and program. No contrary evidence has been offered.
But their objective is to see the “proof” that the United States has against them and to test “the propositions.” In essence, China hopes that the lawsuit will compel the United States to disclose how it knows what it knows about Huawei’s activities and equipment.
From China’s perspective, they don’t care and probably don’t even expect to “win” the case in the common sense of the word. But if the end result is that they find out U.S. intelligence techniques, then they will have won much more than the case. It would be a strategic intelligence and technological victory, because Chinese companies will know much more about U.S. intelligence techniques and how to avoid such monitoring in the future.
The U.S. courts must not allow the case to go forward.
James Gorrie is a writer based in Texas. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.