Should the UK share US fears over Chinese tech firms?

By Sooraj Shah, Stuart Sumner
15 Oct 2012 View Comments
huawei-on-chineseflag

The US investigation into the firm - and fellow Chinese telecommunications equipment firm ZTE - found that Huawei had failed to provide details of several key issues relating to links with the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party and its operations in Iran.

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It seems that the Committee has taken this failure to be a substantive admission of guilt. The situation, however, is different in the UK, which so far appears to be adopting an "innocent until proven guilty" approach.

Last week, Huawei stated it would open new UK headquarters at Green Park in Reading in April 2013 as part of its £1.25bn investment and procurement programme - an investment that Prime Minister David Cameron had himself endorsed, stating that it would help to achieve sustainable growth in the country, as it promised the creation of a further 750 jobs.

Cameron, who met with Zhengfei at the launch of the plans, said this move signalled a "different relationship" between the Chinese firm and the UK.

By "different", it seems that he meant "not shrouded in suspicion and mistrust".

According to Derek Smith, cyber security spokesman for the Cabinet Office, the UK has not gone into this relationship with its eyes closed.

"In the UK, we have had a cyber security evaluation centre with Huawei up and running for a number of years and in my understanding this is unique. It's a system that allows our government security experts to work very closely with Huawei in the UK to ensure that the equipment meets the UK security standards," he told Computing.

In a statement, the UK's government spy agency, GCHQ, admitted that it was working with Huawei, and that it was a two-way process between public and private sector to ensure complete security.

Perhaps worringly, GCHQ is seeking to pin some of the responsibility to assure Huawei's trustworthiness on the private sector.

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