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For months, the Trump administration has accused Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei of being a threat to U.S. national security, warning that data could be channeled through the company’s equipment to China’s intelligence services. Huawei is effectively banned from U.S. networks. What does the company think of Trump’s stance? Nick Schifrin talks to Huawei Senior Vice President Vincent Pang.
But first: For months, the Trump administration has accused Chinese telecom giant Huawei of being a threat to U.S. national security.
The fear? That, if Huawei equipment is used by the U.S. or by its allies, data could be channeled to China's intelligence services. The Trump administration has effectively banned Huawei from U.S. networks and restricted the sale of U.S. parts to Huawei.
With the support of the Pulitzer Center, Nick Schifrin is in China reporting a series of stories. And he traveled to Huawei headquarters, where he sat down with its senior vice president, Vincent Pang, who leads the company's Western European work and its corporate communications.
Vice President Pence calls Huawei a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party and said that allowing Huawei to operate 5G would fundamentally compromise U.S. national security.
Does Huawei compromise U.S. or European national security?
We fulfill all the local laws in every single countries.
We're running operations in 170 countries for the last 30 years. There is no single accident or evidence means Huawei have done something wrong in any countries.
Second, we state very clearly Huawei is 100 percent private company owned by employees. I don't know why there's so many rumors and suspicions about Huawei's ownership, structures.
Do you hear any single evidence we have backdoors, we have taken data back to China?
This is a small industry. Even such kind of things, it must be disclosed already.
The founder and CEO, Ren, former civil engineer of the People's Liberation Army, current party member, some U.S. officials believe that that means that Huawei has to respond to party requests.
Does Huawei have to respond to party requests?
There's many U.S. companies run by the former, you know, army or generals.
It's the same?
Mr. Ren is just one of normal former officers.
He's just a normal technical engineer in the army. You cannot judge a person, you know, being — just by part of his working experience. I don't feel that any influence from central government or from army has been influenced our daily business.
This is a country, of course, where the Communist Party oversees the legal system and the ability for businesses to be businesses.
Does that mean that private companies, as you describe Huawei, need to turn over any data for the Chinese government to ask for it?
The Chinese government has been many times repeat the same message. They never asked any company to give the data back to China. And in the future, they won't do this as well.
Secondly, from our records in the last 30 years, we have been never been asked. If you remember, on 15th of January, when Mr. Ren, CEO and founder, being asked by — this question, he said very clearly he will refuse. If he cannot do, he will shut down the company.
The other concern from the U.S. is that there's a backdoor, that there will be information from Huawei siphoned off by the Chinese government or Chinese intelligence services.
Can you guarantee that the information won't be siphoned off?
If you listen carefully what the British government has seen in the last year, from the last eight years the cooperation with Huawei, we can be sure there is no backdoor in Huawei's system.
After working 11 years in the European region, I'm glad to see they have their own judgments from the experience and the cooperation they had with Huawei.
We're happy to work with any partners. It doesn't matter if it's U.S. partners or Chinese or European partners, if that is all back to a technical discussion, rather than a political.
And so you think the U.S. government is not willing to have that technical discussion; it's only having a political discussion?
Up to now, what we see is all political discussions, nothing real being put into place for a technical debate or technical discussions.
The trust that we have been building with 170 countries, the journey took us almost 30 years. But it looks like the U.S. is not willing to give Huawei such kind of opportunity.
Has the U.S. efforts against Huawei had any impact on that momentum that you see around the world?
There is no major impact.
Firstly, all our major customers choose still stay with Huawei. We didn't see any customers not using Huawei anymore. We can continue to support our customers. We can continue to deliver our equipment to all our major customers.
We signed 50 contracts with our major customers already for 5G already. And, this year, we will deliver 150,000 base stations outside of China. I think that is the fact.
Sir, thank you very much.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
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