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The United States has a problem with Huawei.

Chris Keall’s report in the NBR quotes an US congressman who says the Chinese communications equipment giant’s customers should worry about intellectual property, privacy and US national security.

There may or may not be something in those accusations.

Australia’s government takes them seriously. It has shut Huawei out of the juicy big contracts for that country’s NBN fibre network.

New Zealand’s government does not take the claims seriously.

I’m not qualified to comment on whether the accusations are valid, or on the political calculus behind the decisions in Australia and New Zealand.

However, I offer these four angles to consider as the Huawei story unfolds:

  1. China is now the United States’ main superpower rival. Unlike the Soviet Union, which was an economic basket case, China poses an economic as well as a political or military challenge. In New Zealand we’re no longer used to see politicians going in to bat for our industries and companies, it is still common in the US. The accusations could be as much about undermining the economic challenge from Huawei as anything else.
  2. If Huawei’s Chinese-made telecommunications kit challenges IP, privacy and national security, what about all the other gear being made in China for US brands? Are Chinese-made Apple iPhones also a problem, what about routers and other equipment?

3. If US leaders assume companies in other countries put back doors into strategic infrastructure devices. Does that imply US spooks have already at least thought of doing the same thing with US-made kit?

  1. Do the relatively close ties between NZ National party leaders and Huawei, along with the relatively relaxed attitude to the company’s kit being used for infrastructure, imply New Zealand is now diplomatically closer to China than to the old US alliance?