Chinese phone makers Huawei and ZTE have long had a difficult time entering the US market, but instead of just saying that they would prefer to protect American and South Korean brands, the US has dressed up its anti-Chinese protectionist scheme in the deceptive veil of “national security”.
In spite of being allowed little access to the US market, Huawei is the third most popular smartphone brand in the world, just under American Apple and South Korean Samsung, while ZTE is number eight in global market share. At a lengthy Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director Chris Wray stated, “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks. That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage”.
Wray and his colleagues from other intelligence agencies were then asked if they would recommend that American consumers purchase Huawei or ZTE productions, the answer was a unanimous “no”. The entire hearing was something of a poorly cast melodrama where various platitudes about the dangers of Chinese products were listed one-by-one.
The most absurd remark was when Wray said that the fact that the Chinese government doesn’t share American “values”, somehow makes Chinese phones inferior. If this were the case, Americans should immediately throw out their computers, televisions, tablets, existing smart phones, printers, scanners, digital watches, internet routers, surround sound systems and many of the components in their cars, as all of these items are either entirely or partly manufactured in China.
But the most laughable element of the hearing was when Senators and intelligence chiefs said with a straight face that they are worried that the Chinese government could spy on Americans using Huawei and ZTE phones. In 2017, Wikileaks released Vault 7, an extensive set of documents regarding how the CIA and allied espionage agencies use iPhones, Samsung phones and televisions as well as popular PC operating systems to spy on American citizens.
If anything, this is all the more reason for Americans to buy Chinese products as thus far, Wikileaks as not demonstrated that the CIA is able to hack Chinese products in order to compromise the safety and privacy of ordinary Americans. It beggars belief that the US government is worried about Chinese companies spying on US citizens on behalf of Beijing, when it is the CIA that uses popular western products to do just that.
While the hearing was not presented with a single shred of evidence regarding the bizarre allegation that Huawei or ZTE products are used by China to spy on Americans, even if they were, they would still be safer for Americans to use than Apple or Samsung products. After all, it is not the Chinese government that is threatening Americans with the loss of their livelihoods for peacefully boycotting “Israel”, that is American government. It is not Chinese police who have become infamous for shooting unarmed African Americans, that would be US police. It is not the Chinese government taxing the middle class into poverty, while the working class become poorer and the top 1% hoard all the wealth, that is the system that flourishes in the United States. In this sense, Americans have far less to fear from a far-away Chinese government spying on them than the American government which has been exposed for spying on its own citizens by Wikileaks.
In any case, Chinese phones, far from being spy devices are actually cost-effective and high performance alternatives that threaten the marketplace hegemony of American products. The Senate hearings were nothing more than old fashioned protectionist politics dressed up as national security. One would have to be supremely gullible to take such a thing at face value.