Sometimes when high tech meets international politics, reality really is stranger than fiction.
First, a few enlightened members of our US Congress accused Chinese telecom equipment giant, Hauwei, of spying for the Chinese government. Here is one of many press articles, this one from October, 2012. Here is another article from 2011. Apparently, much of the fear on this side of the Pacific about Hauwei is because Hauwei founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei was once a telecom technician in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The company CEO served in his own country’s military years ago. Therefore, today’s Chinese government will use equipment from his company to spy on the United States.
I wonder how many American CEOs once served in the US military? Does it follow that their companies therefore spy on China?
This article from July, 2013 might be one of the best. Quoting the first sentence in the article:
Former Central Intelligence Agency chief Michael Hayden said that at a minimum, Huawei had provided Chinese officials with “intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems.
Farther down, we see this nugget:
Hayden currently serves on the board at Motorola Solutions, and is a principal at security consultancy Chertoff Group.
Yup, that’s the same former Homeland Security Director, Michael Chertoff, who oversaw the US Government’s not-so-brilliant response to hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Now he runs a consulting company, advising governments and big business how to keep their infrastructure safe. And Michael Hayden works for him.
As for Motorola Solutions, here is how that company describes itself, from its own website at http://www.motorolasolutions.com:
Motorola Solutions provides business- and mission-critical communication products and services to enterprises and governments.
I should disclose a few things before going any further with this. First, I am an American and proud of it. By an accident of birth, I am blessed to live in the best country in the world. I want the United States to compete fiercely and win all the competitive battles. I don’t like Chinese counterfeiting, I don’t like spam relayed from Chinese email relay services, and I don’t want anyone spying on me.
I like to think I’m one of the good guys. I want my country to also be one of the good guys.
I also like level playing fields. I regularly go up against entrenched companies – American and foreign – and it frustrates me beyond belief when I offer superior solutions but lose because the entrenched competition successfully introduces FUD with the potential customer. Introducing FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – is a time honored tradition in the high tech marketplace. The conversations start something like this:
Mr. Customer, are you sure you want to look at this new solution? You have a lot riding on this project, and even though this new upstart might offer some advantages and they’re less expensive than we are, is it really worth the risk? After all, we’ll be adding that capability sometime in the next 20 years so they don’t really have any advantage anyway. Doesn’t it make more sense to stick with us and what you already know?
And bla bla bla…
FUD is often no more than a line of BS, but fear is a powerful motivator. FUD works – that’s why entrenched incumbents use it.
So now, along comes Hauwei, a Chinese company, and the guy who sits on the board of a direct US competitor accuses Hauwei of spying for the Chinese. And he made his accusations nearly a year after a US Presidential Commission spent 18 months investigating Hauwei and found no evidence to support the accusations. Read the details right here.
What’s really going on here? Hayden and his boss are spreading FUD, wrapped up in the US flag and national security. But it’s not really about national security. It’s about keeping a competitor out of the US marketplace. It’s good old fashioned protectionism mixed with a 21st century high tech twist. It was never about national security, it’s about money.
And now it gets better.
Because the NSA – the organization Hayden used to run – could not keep its own secrets, we find out the NSA hacked into the Hauwei internal network and spied on Hauwei. That’s the pot calling the kettle black.
Instead of Hauwei spying on us, we spied on Hauwei. And got caught.
In what universe is it possible the Chinese are the good guys in this episode?
(First published on my Infrasupport website, March 26, 2014. I backdated here to match the original posting date.)