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Huawei defends spying for China and plans to build factory in Europe

The president of Huawei, in December in Paris. JOEL SAGET / AFP

Huawei strikes back. Subject of mistrust in Europe and sanctions in the United States, the Chinese telecoms equipment manufacturer announced, Wednesday, December 18, that it plans to build a 5G equipment factory in Europe and is committed to refuse any request for espionage coming from Beijing. Huawei President Liang Hua made the announcements in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The world leader in telecoms equipment, the group based in Shenzhen (southern China) has been in the sights of the United States for almost two years, who fear that the Chinese intelligence services may use its equipment to spy on other countries. .

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“China has no law requiring its companies to supply [au gouvernement] information “said Liang, referring to statements by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. “In the future, even if it should happen, we will refuse this kind of request”, he added. As for Huawei's activities in the West, “Our supreme principle is to strictly comply with the law of each country where we work”, assured Mr. Liang to the AFP.

In 2017, however, China passed a law that enjoins “All organizations and citizens to support, help and cooperate in the national intelligence effort”, according to the text of the law.

Massive investments in Europe

These assurances come when European countries, despite strong pressure from Washington, fail to adopt a common position against Huawei, at a time when telecom operators on the continent choose equipment to set up their future 5G networks (new generation of ultra-fast mobile telephony).

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A strategic market for the group, Europe is the subject of all the attention of Huawei, which announced, in early November, a global investment of $ 40 billion over the next five years.

Of this amount, about 4 billion could be spent in France on purchases of components and services, said Liang Hua. This is double the amount spent over the past five years by Huawei in France, where the Chinese group also has five research and development centers.

Better: Huawei could open a factory on the continent where it would produce components for 5G networks, its first of its kind outside its country of origin. The president indicates that the Chinese group is “Conducting a feasibility study” for the construction of such a factory, without advancing a possible location. “This decision can happen very quickly. “

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“Survival” strategy in the face of American sanctions

The group has already had to thoroughly review its supply and chip production routes for its telecom equipment following US sanctions blocking its purchases of crucial components from American industry specialists (Micron, Qualcomm and Intel, in particular).

“Already today, in the field of 5G technologies, we are no longer dependent on supplies from American manufacturers of chips and other components”, said Liang Hua, evoking a strategy of “Survival” for the group.

Believing that Huawei has “Close ties to the Communist government and the Chinese military apparatus”, the United States had indeed prohibited in May the American companies to deal with the Chinese group. This also deprives Huawei, also the world's second largest smartphone maker, of having access for its devices to Google’s Android operating system.

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Despite US sanctions, the group should however have delivered in 2019 “Between 245 and 250 million” smartphones worldwide, Liang said – a big increase from the 206 million units delivered in 2018, according to IDC.

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