Founded in 1987, Huawei has grown into the giant technology company we have come to know today. The Chinese company has become one of the leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies in the world. Coming second only to Samsung in the smartphone supplier game.
Its reach spans over 160 countries and Zimbabwe is no exception. In recent years Huawei technology and services have flooded our nation. P
Where the concern lies
As we all know not all that glitters is gold; serious security queries have been raised by various governments concerning Huawei’s suspected exploitation by China and the founder, Ren Zhengfei’s military background. Countries like U.S.A and Australia have flat-out banned Huawei from providing them with equipment for the highly anticipated 5G networks.
Legally China has the right to demand that tech companies like Huawei turn over useful information or provide the Chinese government with access to communications and technologies they own. This makes it hard to believe the company’s insistence of no government ties or third party interference.
The technology company clams it is privately owned by its employees through an Employee Shareholding Scheme. However, this fact just makes it harder to believe in their independence when one looks at China’s communist ideology.
As one of the world’s leading examples of communism. Many everyday people like Huawei employees are under the tight grip the nation’s Communist Party. Consequently, it would be problematic to ignore the probability that the company’s employees might just be more than happy to cooperate with the government.
In an interview with Forbes, U.S.A State Department cyber official, Robert Strayer spoke about how China uses data and technology, “…survey its citizens, to set up credit scores and to imprison more than I million people for their ethnic and religious background”. Strayer goes on to warn us, “It would be naïve to think that a country, given the influence it had over its companies, would act in ways that would treat our citizens better than it treats its own citizens”.
Why Zimbabweans should care
One might call this all hype and conspiracy created by America to discredit China, maybe- but hear me out. We all see the dynamics playing out within the circles of the world’s superpowers and think ‘that doesn’t concern us‘ and that is where I feel as a third world nation we fail ourselves. Yes, it will take us a bit longer to level up to 5G network unlike other nations but technology is propelling us forward none the less.
Considering Zimbabwe’s relationship with China, it would be crazy not to assume that our 5G revolution will be pioneered by Chinese technology. Now, this is where it gets scary and why as Zimbos we should care. Imagine our entire telecommunications at the mercy of a communist nation that demands nothing short of compliance.
A simple dispute or difference of opinion could result in our communications and internet networks disrupted. As our tumultuous past suggests that would be a disaster. Furthermore, with more devices become connected to the internet from self-driving cars to security systems it’s vital more than ever that internet connections be secure.
One might think that all this is farfetched, but I urge you to consider China’s espionage past. The Asian nation was at the centre of one of the most memorable cases of cyber-espionage back in 2012. The country hacked into UK defence firm BAE Systems to steal data about a $264 billion dollar-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet.
The fact that the 2012 incident wasn’t the first of its kind only show us how far China is willing to go to have its way. Hell, the UK’s decision to ban Huawei from its 5G network stirred up talks of possible retaliation in the form of a cyber-attack.
A Rock and A Hard Place
We need to think about these things to avoid being stuck between a rock and a hard place. The UK is facing the mammoth task of removing all Huawei equipment from their communications system which is costing them up to £2bn not to mention the time it will take.
As humble old Zimbos it is best we learn from this. We wouldn’t be able to simply cut ties like the UK did and replace everything. We most probably would find ourselves trapped in such a situation with no options.