Hi-tech cold war turns hot with ar­rest of ex­ec­u­tive

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - GREG SHERI­DAN

The ar­rest of Huawei’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, Meng Wanzhou, is the most sig­nif­i­cant and po­ten­tially fate­ful de­vel­op­ment in USChina re­la­tions since Don­ald Trump be­came Pres­i­dent.

It is more im­por­tant than even the tar­iff war be­tween the big­gest econ­omy in the world, the US, and the se­cond big­gest econ­omy in the world, China.

Meng is the daugh­ter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei. Huawei is the world’s big­gest provider of mo­bile phone tech­nol­ogy. It is the bright shin­ing leader of Bei­jing’s at­tempt to dom­i­nate hi-tech in the decades to come.

Although at the time of writ­ing the charges against Meng are un­clear, they seem to cen­tre on al­le­ga­tions that Huawei broke Amer­i­can sanc­tions against Iran.

It is im­pos­si­ble to know the de­tails of Meng’s case. She de­serves the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence like any­body else.

But it would seem un­likely that the US Jus­tice De­part­ment would make such a move, and even more un­likely that the Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties would carry out an ar­rest at their re­quest, without at least the ap­pear­ance of solid in­for­ma­tion.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment,

China’s Huawei has tabled a plan to build a mas­sive un­der­sea in­ter­net ca­ble stretch­ing from South Amer­ica to China with a stop-off in Syd­ney, which ex­perts warn could be an es­pi­onage risk.

Aus­tralia spent nearly $137 mil­lion to lock Huawei out of a ma­jor Pa­cific un­der­sea ca­ble project link­ing Syd­ney, the Solomon Is­lands and Pa­pua New Guinea be­cause of na­tional se­cu­rity fears, as well as its new 5G net­work.

The move has ric­o­cheted across the globe, with Aus­tralia’s Five Eyes part­ners Bri­tain, Canada and New Zealand all mov­ing to re­con­sider Huawei’s in­volve­ment in their telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works and re­ports yes­ter­day that Japan would fol­low suit.

The Week­end Aus­tralian has con­firmed the Chilean gov­ern­ment has al­ready asked Can­berra what it would need to do to pro­ceed with the project. A Huawei­funded scop­ing study was dis­cussed in May this year by Chilean For­eign Min­is­ter Roberto Am­puero and Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi. Af­ter Chile and China last year signed an agree­ment to com­plete the study, Huawei sug­gested three routes.

Ac­cord­ing to Chilean telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions reg­u­la­tor Sub­tel, one route would be­gin in the Chilean port city of Val­paraiso, with links in the Juan Fer­nan­dez Is­lands off Chile, Easter Is­land, Auck­land in New Zealand and Syd­ney on the way to Shang­hai.

The se­cond op­tion in­cludes stops in Val­paraiso, Juan Fer­nan­dez, Easter Is­land, French Poly­ne­sia and Shang­hai, while the third pro­posal is from Punta Are­nas in Chile’s far south to Auck­land and then to Shang­hai.

How­ever, re­ports in Chi­nese state me­dia de­scribed the main route be­ing con­sid­ered as pass­ing Aus­tralia, New Zealand and French Poly­ne­sia on its way from Chile to Shang­hai.

The head of the In­ter­na­tional Cy­ber Pol­icy Cen­tre at the Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­icy In­sti­tute, Fer­gus Han­son, said it was pos­si­ble Aus­tralian in­ter­net traf­fic could be surveilled through ca­bles.

“The key with the PNG one is it was go­ing to land in Syd­ney. So … it was go­ing to be rout­ing Aus­tralian traf­fic through it,” he told The Week­end Aus­tralian. “Ba­si­cally if there’s a di­rect gut­ter in Aus­tralia, it’s go­ing to be a route for Aus­tralian in­for­ma­tion to go through.”

Mr Han­son said the 2013 Snow­den leak showed coun­tries could at­tempt to spy on traf­fic that went through un­der­sea ca­bles. “It was sug­gested in the Snow­den leak that one of the key ad­van­tages that the UK had in the global Five Eyes sys­tem was the amount of traf­fic that got routed through the UK be­cause what they were do­ing was pulling (in­for­ma­tion off) the ca­bling sys­tem and it’s eas­ier to do if you own the ca­bles or they’re com­ing through your ter­ri­tory,” he said.

The Chi­nese com­pany is in the head­lines af­ter the ar­rest of chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Meng Wanzhou, the daugh­ter of founder Ren Zhengfei, on her way to South Amer­ica at Van­cou­ver air­port.

In the heat of the US-China trade war, US of­fi­cials are re­port­edly seek­ing her ex­tra­di­tion.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands that while Can­berra is yet to re­ceive an of­fi­cial ap­pli­ca­tion, the Chilean gov­ern­ment has made in­quiries.

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