The top US cyber diplomat brought the country’s opposition to Chinese tech giant Huawei to MWC this week, with Robert Strayer telling reporters in Barcelona that the beleaguered smartphone maker is “duplicitous and deceitful,” and warning allies to avoid the firm’s products.
Strayer’s official title is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy with the US State Department. During his remarks at MWC, he reiterated the United States’ appeal to other countries to steer clear of all things Huawei — and, specifically, for US allies to keep Huawei away from their countries’ 5G networks.
“The United States is asking other governments and the private sector to consider the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese information technology companies,” Strayer said. “Chinese laws require these firms to support and assist Beijing’s mass security apparatus without any democratic checks and balances on access to or use of data that touches the network or equipment.”
Strayer, who was joined by other top US officials like FCC chairman Ajit Pai, was pressed on whether the US had proof of a key plank of the government’s argument against Huawei — that it’s a de facto arm of the Chinese government, able to use its products like smartphones to potentially spy on users. Strayer didn’t address the possibility of Huawei installing device backdoors head-on, only reiterating that the US has “substantial concerns” about the company.
His remarks represented a bit of unfortunate timing for Huawei, which as Business Insider notes has put on a major showing at MWC and is pushing its 5G capabilities especially hard. Signs with the company’s branding are on display throughout the tech conference, and Strayer’s interaction with reporters also happened just hours after Huawei executive Guo Ping gave an MWC keynote address.
Guo laid into the US, hitting back that Uncle Sam has “no evidence, nothing” to back up its claims about Huawei. Per this CNBC report about his remarks, Guo promised: “We don’t do bad things,” and besides, he continued — “The irony is that the US Cloud Act… allowed their entities to access data across borders.”
As a reminder, the tension between both the US and Huawei, backed by China, has been steadily ratcheting up for a few months now. Canada arrested the company’s CFO at the behest of the US, ahead of formal extradition here, and US agencies in recent weeks unveiled scores of criminal charges against the company. All of that, while the US continues to keep up pressure against Huawei via public statements like Strayer’s.