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Huawei trolls the U.S. by opening a cybersecurity center in Europe

“Trust in cybersecurity is one of the major challenges that we face as a global community.“

by David Gilbert
Mar 5 2019, 10:15am

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Chinese electronics giant Huawei, which the U.S. has long suspected of colluding with China’s government to spy on Western countries, said Tuesday that governments and regulators “lack a basic common understanding” of how cybersecurity really works.

In remarks made during the opening of a new cybersecurity transparency center in Brussels, Huawei’s rotating chairman, Ken Hu, called on governments to come together to create a set of common cybersecurity standards “to build a trustworthy environment.”

“Trust in cybersecurity is one of the major challenges that we face as a global community,“ Hu said. “Trust needs to be based on facts. Facts must be verifiable, and verification must be based on common standards. We believe that this is an effective model for building trust in the digital era.”

READ: Huawei founder warns Trump you cannot “crush us” because we are “more advanced”

The launch of the new center in Brussels and Hu’s call for global cybersecurity standards will likely be met with suspicion in Washington, where the White House has been leading a sustained campaign to get allies to prevent Huawei from developing their next-generation 5G networks.

Huawei, for its part, has been on a charm offensive in Europe — where it’s already an established player — and where U.S. allies like Germany and the U.K. have said they may break with Washington and allow Huawei equipment on their networks.

Hu met with Europe’s digital chief, Andrus Ansip, on Monday and said the pair discussed the possibility of creating cybersecurity standards along the lines of the recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy legislation. But Hu argued that before that could happen, officials need to be educated.

“The fact is that both the public and private sectors lack a basic common understanding of this issue,” Hu said.

Huawei has faced a torrent of allegations in recent months, most of them coming from Washington, which fears the company works closely with Beijing to install backdoors in its equipment.

As part of its charm offensive in Europe, the new cybersecurity center in Brussels joins others in the U.K. and Germany as a way of trying to convince regulators that its equipment is safe.

Tensions between the U.S. and Huawei has been strained for years but ratcheted up dramatically in December when Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on Washington’s direction in connection with allegations that Huawei violated U.S. export sanctions against Iran. The U.S. has also accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets.

On Monday, China announced it was charging two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — with stealing state secrets, intensifying concerns that Beijing is exacting revenge for the arrest of Meng.

Meng is due to appear in court in Vancouver on Wednesday after the Canadian government announced last week it was moving ahead with an extradition hearing.

Cover image: A Huawei employee welcomes guests touring Huawei's European Cyber Security Transparency Centre during its opening in Brussels on March 5, 2019. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)