Huawei 华为

Huawei is a Chinese multinational telecommunications company. It was founded in 1987 by ex-People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer and current president Ren Zhengfei 任正非. It is a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s largest telecom carriers. However, it is accused by numerous media outlets of having covert links with the Chinese government and installing technological ‘backdoors’ into its equipment that allow China to obtain confidential information. Huawei has consistently denied these allegations.

Huawei opened an Australian office in Sydney in 2004, expressed interest in providing infrastructure for Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) in 2009 and appointed an Australian board — its first local board — in 2011.

Huawei appeared to have a good chance to participate in the NBN. Its Australian board included former foreign minister Alexander Downer, former Victorian premier John Brumby and retired rear admiral John Lord. Huawei also received private endorsement from the NBN Company following a 2010 staff visit to the Huawei headquarters. Being allowed to participate in the NBN would have made it harder for the US to justify its continued exclusion of Huawei.

In March 2012, it was reported that Huawei had been informed by the Attorney-General’s Department in late 2011 that it would be barred from tendering for NBN contracts on national security grounds, based upon advice from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) concerning Huawei and Chinese cyber warfare.

Huawei’s Australian board expressed dismay at the ‘completely absurd’ decision, pointing to its role in national broadband projects in the UK and New Zealand, and its existing Australian mobile network contracts with Vodafone and Optus. Offers to set up an independent Huawei testing centre were ignored by government agencies. Huawei made a submission to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper emphasising its commitment to Australia and warning that ‘outdated fears’ of China would harm the Australian technology sector and economy. The then-opposition Liberal Party lambasted the Labor government for imperilling Chinese foreign direct investment.

In October 2013, following pre-election talk by then opposition communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull about reviewing the Gillard government’s position, after ASIO briefings the new Abbott government upheld the Huawei NBN ban on national security grounds. The decision was criticised both by Huawei and by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the issue was reportedly raised by China in bilateral Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

Huawei continued campaigning to improve its public image in Australia. It sponsored a local rugby team, the Canberra Raiders, and funded trips to China for senior political figures from both major parties.

Huawei’s smartphones, mobile equipment and network technology are selling increasingly well in Australia, with Huawei reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and revenue growth of eighteen percent in the 2014 financial year. In April 2015, Huawei signed a five-year sponsorship agreement with the Gold Coast Suns Australian rules football (AFL) club.


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