Information is a priceless commodity in today’s world, and while it may not be something that can be protected physically, many would go to extreme lengths to keep their information more secure than even some of the largest banks. The U.S. is no different, risking an already sensitive relationship with China in order to remove any risk of intellectual property theft.
The Chinese company Huawei specializes in telecommunication equipment and other technology-based services and products. The U.S. and other western government figures have grown suspicious of this company, and have remarked their concern for the possibility of using this technology to spy and gain private information. This fear of a breach in security has led to a number of incidents, and none have led to anything but tension between the western world and China.
The President’s national security adviser John Bolton has already begun a campaign to remove all Huawei technology by informing the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that they are no longer comfortable with using Chinese-made telecom equipment for sensitive sectors. A senior administration official states “We are all concerned about theft of intellectual property and Chinese telecoms companies that are being used by China for intelligence-gathering purposes,”
It is not just the Israeli that are being urged to stop using Huawei though. The U.S. has also been noted as pushing for their allies in Germany, Italy, and Japan to also remove the company that they believe is causing security concerns. This was reported by the Wall Street Journal back in November. This is not something that will just happen overnight though, and many believe that it will be too tough of a sell even with the risk of “undetected espionage.”
More recently, a top executive of Huawei, who just happens to be the daughter of the founder, was arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States. At the moment she is accused of bypassing U.S. sanctions in Iran through fraudulent schemes. Not everything is known about why the Huawei executive was arrested, but with all the past situations involving the push to abandon them, it may just be due to the rising concern of intellectual property theft.
It is hard to say exactly where a situation such as this could lead. While Huawei itself seems to believe that the U.S. legal system will ultimately find nothing that goes against laws or regulations, the Chinese embassy in Canada is far from complacent stating, “At the request of the U.S. side, the Canadian side arrested a Chinese citizen not violating any American or Canadian law. The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim.” Whether she is innocent or not, this is just another event in a long line of situation that will surely increase the tension on both sides.
Interestingly enough, just days after the arrest two Canadian citizens were detained in China. They were a businessman and a former diplomat with no clear link to the arrest of the Huawei executive; some are already starting to speculate that this could have been an act of retaliation by Beijing. That being said, it is important to take all unproven information with a grain of salt until more facts arrive.
There has been a lot of talk in the last month that the President hopes to ban U.S. companies from using any equipment manufactured by Huawei and ZTE. Huawei, on the other hand, has stated its intent to continue its venture of building competitiveness in creating 5G networks despite the allegations, threats, and overall lack of confidence coming from the west.
Going forward, companies and citizens alike may start to witness a sort of revolution in intellectual property theft laws spanning throughout the globe. The U.S. clearly has stated its intent to buckle down on all those who display even the slightest sign of risking their intellectual property whether they are friend or foe.
Keeping information safe may not have been as much of a concern just a few decades ago, but the more modern our society becomes, the easier intellectual property theft is, and the more important it becomes. It is hard to say exactly what can and will be done in the future to protect our rights to a secure way to deliver sensitive information, but in the meantime, it will be interesting to see how things progress.