Established in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in 1987, it didn’t take long for Huawei Technologies to become a top player in global telecommunications. Since 2012, it’s been the world’s biggest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. Last year, Huawei displaced Apple as the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker, after South Korea’s Samsung. Active in 170 countries, Huawei matters – to China and to the global economy.
Yet there have long been questions raised about the company, starting with the fact that Huawei’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, is a former senior technologist for the People’s Liberation Army. For years, Western counterintelligence has quietly warned about the company’s connections to the PLA and other Chinese security agencies.
Recently, those cautions have grown distinctly audible. Last February, the heads of the ‘big three’ US intelligence agencies warned Americans against buying Huawei phones, which they deemed a security risk. As FBI Director Christopher Wray explained, ‘We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values…It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.’
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