Former Google CEO and chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board Eric Schmidt said that “there’s no question” Chinese telecom giant Huawei has business practices “not acceptable in national security.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 for a documentary, Schmidt said that a proper understanding of Huawei should make one see the company as a means of “signals intelligence” that functions as a spy agency.
“There’s no question that Huawei has engaged in some practices that are not acceptable in national security,” he stated. “There’s no question that information from Huawei routers has ultimately ended up in hands that would appear to be the state. However that happened, we’re sure it happened.”
In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce slapped additional sanctions on Huawei to limit its ability to acquire semiconductor chips using American technology. The Department of Justice said in February that the firm has conducted a “decades-long” operation to “misappropriate intellectual property” from U.S. technology firms, while Trump administration claimed that Huawei has secretly accessed American cell phone data for over a decade.
“Let’s cut to the chase: China’s main export is espionage, and the distinction between the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese ‘private-sector’ businesses like Huawei is imaginary,” Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said in May. “Huawei’s supply chain depends on contracts with American companies and the Commerce Department ought to take a careful look at how we can effectively disrupt our adversary.”
In the interview, Schmidt admitted that he had held “prejudices” about China, such as the belief that tech firms in the country are “very good at stealing,” but said that these prejudices now “need to be thrown out.”
“The Chinese are just as good, and maybe better, in key areas of research and innovation as the West,” Schmidt explained. “They’re putting more money into it. They are putting it in a different way, it is state-directed in a way that is different from the West. We need to get our act together to compete.”