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Huawei: We've been unfairly singled out

Amid security concerns raised over the Chinese company's involvement in national projects, Huawei says it is misunderstood and has been ramping up its public relations efforts to allay fears.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

Chinese networking giant Huawei Technologies says it is suffering from being misunderstood in the wider IT sector, which has led to the unfair discrimination and scrutiny over national security concerns it is currently receiving.

Scott Sykes, vice president of corporate media affairs at Huawei, told ZDNet Asia in an interview the company, which has been looking overseas for growth, has been unfairly singled out because of its Chinese origins. "We don't have any special relationship with China, other than the fact we're headquartered there," he asserted.

It has been under the microscope in markets such as the United States, which has been investigating claims that Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE are linked to the Chinese military and are involved in cross-border cyber espionage and attacks.

On that note, ZDNet Asia spoke to Sykes to find out why Huawei feels it is being discriminated against and what it is doing to change its image and public perception of the company.

Q: Why do you feel Huawei Technologies has been unfairly discriminated against?
Sykes: Two-thirds of our components comes from outside China such as in the U.S. and Europe. The reverse is true for other industry players such as Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, with nearly a third of their telecom equipment also made from China.

Everybody in the ICT industry should be looked at the same way because, essentially, we all share the same components from the supply chain in exactly the same proportion and way.

Our track record speaks for itself. Although we've been blocked from bidding for contracts for Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), we are in fact supplying network equipment to the country's telcos such as Telstra and Optus.

How do you explain the increased scrutiny the company has been under in recent times?
The main reason is we have not been good at telling our own story, which has allowed people to spread misinformation.

We realized this about five years ago, and have been ramping up our efforts in engaging our stakeholders by hiring more people like me, to meet the media, government and consumers. As part of my job scope, for instance, I'm constantly flying about and having conversations like this with various people. I've already done 200 interviews for the first half of this year.

There is also more attention in the ICT industry now because technology's role in supporting economic growth has expanded exponentially over the past 10 years. We have to adapt to it as we expand overseas, especially in the enterprise and device segments, because people want to know who they are doing business with.

Fifteen years ago, 100 percent of our business was in China. Now, 70 percent comes from overseas markets.

What is Huawei doing to allay industry and regulatory concerns?
We're willing to do whatever it takes to give customers more assurance.

For example, we've cooperated with the U.K. government and set up a cybersecurity assurance center with which it can access our source code. Very few other companies would be willing to do this. After all, the source code is one's secret sauce.

Huawei also has a system in place to ensure supply chain security in that we track every piece of equipment at every phase of development. Our equipment also goes through independent testing by agencies such as Electronic Warfares Associates (EWA) and standards work with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Additionally, we have also been publishing annual reports and financial results for the past five years, even though we are not obliged to since we are not publicly listed.

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