According to Reuters, Huawei’s chairman offered to make “no-spy” agreements with Western governments to be allowed to participate in building 5G networks. Is the offer an implicit acknowledgment that Huawei does indeed spy on its customers, or that it has the capability to? Part of the offer was to make Huawei’s equipment meet the “no-spy, no backdoor standard” demanded by the West, according to the report. Again, if Huawei’s equipment already met those standards then there would be no need to pledge to change current practices. As the U.K.’s Cyber Security Centre concluded in March, Huawei’s equipment is rife with security risks, and despite promises of millions of dollars in systems upgrades, the company had failed to significantly close the gaps.
If Huawei’s repeated denials of espionage activity are changing the attitude among potential government customers (and some, like Germany, seem appeased, while the U.K. sits on the fence), then why make the no-spy pledge? It may make political sense, but it certainly doesn’t make logical sense. If you don’t already spy, or don’t have the capability of doing so, then the pledge is meaningless; if you do spy, then nothing you promise will be believable, given the obviously hidden nature of the activity. If anything, the chairman’s offer may wind up convincing Westerners of the risk of letting Huawei into national 5G networks, something the Trump administration has been only partially successful at doing.