This is a real question. And I really do not have an answer.
The U.S. led an important and successful campaign to highlight the security risks inherent in Huawei 5G.
But then everyone, everywhere just seemed to stop and high five that, finally, global awareness was raised.
But I wonder if it was raised enough? As I look at Digital China and the multitude of activities that drive and support it, this has become a real question for me. Now, it certainly could be that this has been thought through, and I just missed it (that happens a lot), but let me give just one example why I am uncertain.
As we all know, Huawei is not simply a 5G firm. It has a remarkably long list of product lines, and these product lines support digital ecosystems made up of many PRC and non-PRC technologies.
For instance, Huawei just signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Yantai Huadong Electronic S&T Corporation to expand their work together into Smart Ports. Yantai Huadong manages a large portfolio of Smart Port projects in China, has a growing international business, and wants to expand more. I’m sure the technical muscle behind Huawei can help a lot with that (and not just 5G).
By the way, “Yantai Huadong Electronic S&T Corporation” is my translation of 烟台华东电子科技有限公司. Their own official translation is, well, a bit rough. I bet that’s something Huawei can help with too.
Anyways, back to the main point. So if Huawei is a security risk regarding 5G, it is a security risk with 1 or 2 or 3 degrees of separation from the dozens of Chinese firms it cooperates with like Yantai Huadong (and not just on Smart Ports)? What if the cooperation with Huawei isn’t 5G but instead Huawei cloud or data services? How about all the Western firms that work with Yantai Huadong (look at the website) who works with Huawei, are they security risks too?
I am not picking on Yantai Huadong. I could have picked a dozen other firms. (I should, however, mention in good faith that Yantai Huadong has supplied AIS data to the PLA Navy. That’s sort of a Smart Port, Smart Ship, Smart Ocean thing.)
Nor am I picking on Western firms. Business in China right now is a complicated endeavor.
And especially, I am not being facetious. I am really, truly puzzled on how we should handle this.
OK, now add in Digital China. “Smart” ecosystems are what Digital China is all about. That means lots of bundled technologies, inside and outside China. If Beijing is successful in Building Digital China (and that’s a maybe I know, but still enough to make me pause), we will face something much more substantial than we saw with simply Huawei 5G.
So are we looking far enough ahead and at the right things?
You tell me, please.