Huawei, ZTE see vindication amid US cyber-spying scandal
No Chinese telecoms equipment makers named as co-operating with US surveillance system
Revelations made by whistle-blower Edward Snowden about internet surveillance in the United States may have provided an "I told you so" moment for China's telecommunications equipment makers.
A senior spokesman for Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, the mainland's biggest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, pointed out that not one company in its industry was among the high-technology companies alleged by Snowden to be co-operating with the US government's Prism surveillance programme and other online snooping activities.
"Why? Because equipment vendors build the 'pipes' that form the network, but they do not manage the information that flows through the network or that is stored in data reservoirs, like internet company servers," William Plummer, a vice-president of external affairs at Huawei and its point man in Washington, told the South China Morning Post.
On the alleged systematic compromise of online user data with firms like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo, Plummer said: "It didn't matter which combination of [telecommunications equipment] vendors built the pipes and plumbing of the networks over which the data extracted had flowed. It would have made no difference in terms of the security of the data."
He added that this development "would seem to suggest that some of the cyber-security solutions that have been proposed in the US, such as blocking equipment from China-headquartered telecommunications gear vendors, are as much about politics and protectionism as anything else".
Both Huawei and ZTE, the world's second and fifth-biggest telecommunications equipment suppliers, are the target of scrutiny in the US, where lawmakers have branded their network infrastructure products as posing a threat to national security.
Following an 11-month investigation, the bipartisan Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives released a 52-page report in October last year which recommended Huawei and ZTE be barred from acquiring US assets and from supplying any equipment to telecommunications network projects there for fear of possible spying and cyberattacks by China.
Huawei and ZTE rejected those findings, which singled them out even though every major telecommunications infrastructure provider has a substantial manufacturing supply chain in China.
In April, the US Government Accountability Office released a new report that found no recent evidence of cyber-security incidents affecting the country's telecommunications networks - a finding that directly refutes the stand taken by the lawmakers in the October study.