Heat without light

The Obama administration owes it to the American people to make public the results of its extensive 18-month investigation of Huawei.

It was just a year ago that I completed a study for the American Enterprise Institute on the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and its efforts to crack the U.S. market. The report chronicled a number of actions by the U.S. government, both public and behind the scenes, to thwart Huawei. At the time, I took note of two investigations that were about to be launched: one by the House Intelligence Committee and one by a White House task force. Early in October, the preliminary findings of the House investigation were published. And on October 18, a Reuters team, headed by reporter Joseph Menn, broke a story on the unpublished findings of the White House probe — which was actually started in 2010 and completed early in 2012, but kept under wraps. What follows is my own analysis of the implications and significance of the two reports, and a review of my own recommendations from last year.

On October 8, two members of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), issued a scathing 52-page report on the activities of two Chinese telecommunications companies, Huawei and its sister firm, ZTE. The report describes the two firms as a threat to U.S. national security, calls for a ban on investments by the two companies in the United States, and advises private companies to find other partners if they care about the national security of the United States. Parts of the document had been leaked a few days earlier to provide background for an alarmist CBS “60 Minutes” report on October 7. (The preliminary report will be followed later by a full version, and sources familiar with the committee process claim that the preliminary document was hurried out to meet the “60 Minutes” schedule and gain nationwide publicity.)

Given the draconian recommendations, the glaring problem with the House report is the lack of supporting evidence in the 50-odd pages. This led The Economist to state, bitingly, that it “appears to have been written for vegetarians. At least, there is not much meat in it.” Though the document refers vaguely to classified information that raises additional “concerns,” it fails to provide evidence that Huawei has spied for China or spiked its equipment with so-called Trojan horses or malware.

The full text of this article is available on The American's website.

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About the Author

 

Claude
Barfield
  • Claude Barfield, a former consultant to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, researches international trade policy (including trade policy in China and East Asia), the World Trade Organization (WTO), intellectual property, and science and technology policy. His many books and publications include Swap: How Trade Works with Philip Levy, a concise introduction to the principles of world economics, and Telecoms and the Huawei conundrum: Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States, an AEI Economic Studies analysis that explores the case of Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei and its commitment to long-term investment in the US.
  • Phone: 2028625879
    Email: cbarfield@aei.org
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