Huawei urges Australia to embrace better Chinese products

Huawei Australia chairman John Lord said Huawei is willing to allow the Australian government to test its products to make this happen.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Huawei Australia chairman John Lord has warned that Australia risks losing out on huge technology opportunities that are coming out of Asia, especially China, if the country does not embrace the technology boom that is happening there.

"The Asia Pacific region is now capable of producing technologies as good as or even better than what is being produced in the western countries – and Australia cannot afford to turn its back on that kind of innovation," he said during his 2019 Charles Todd Oration to Telecommunications Association (TELSOC) members on Wednesday.

"Australians need to be smart about how we deal with this and we need to figure out how we can use this explosion of innovation taking place right on our doorstep as an opportunity and not a threat."

He acknowledged however, that before Australia would be willing to embrace technology from Asia, a number of issues needed to be addressed, with the biggest one being trust.

"Huawei has been working around the world with countries and international organisations to show that our products can be trusted and that we have nothing to hide," he said.

Alluding to the Australian government's decision to ban Huawei's participation in 5G network rollouts, Lord said Huawei wants to promote an "ecosystem of investment between Australia and China" to help the Australian government overcome security concerns it has over the Chinese tech company's products.

"We are not asking the Australian Government to trust us as a matter of blind faith. Security of critical infrastructure is a national imperative; security of data is essential … We are saying to them that we are absolutely willing and open to have them test our products and technology to demonstrate that they are safe, secure, and reliable," he said.

See also: Huawei's "plan B" smartphone OS: What it needs to succeed (TechRepublic)

According to Lord, the company has taken this similar approach with the United Kingdom, and labelled the outcome between Huawei and the UK as "hugely positive".

Lord also reinforced how even though Huawei is a company based in China, not all technology components are manufactured in China.

"As a company of Chinese origins, many people imagine that our products are entirely produced in China from Chinese components and suppliers, but nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

"Huawei also spends heavily on components from Taiwan and South Korea as well as several European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Finland.

"These components range from complex chipsets to the most basic nuts and bolts, and there are ample opportunities for Australian companies to play a far greater role in this supply chain. And Huawei is not unique. All of our competitors have similar supply chains, and Australia at this time, participates well below its capability."

During his address, Lord also noted on the flip side that Australia needs to work on being an attractive market for investors by equipping its labour force with relevant skills.

"If we want to have an impact on the world stage and create the kind of mutually beneficial environment that we are talking about then we have to lift our game here and produce more STEM graduates that can add value to the global technology supply chain," he said.

"Finally, to put it succinctly, we need to let our universities grow, not shackle them."

Last week, the company's chief executive Ren Zhengfei proposed selling its current 5G know-how to a Western firm as a way to address the security concerns that have been voiced in the past by countries such as Australia and the United States.

In an interview with The EconomistZengfei said the buyer would be charged a one-time fee which would give it access to Huawei's existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know-how, and be given the option to modify the source code. 

This approach would remove Huawei's involvement in any alleged backdoors or flaws, the report said.

Updated 18 September, 2019 3.40pm AEST: Additional information was included about Huawei's proposal to share its 5G knowledge for a fee.

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