Hi-tech cold war turns hot with arrest of executive
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.