Huawei's growing confidence in winning the argument in the court of public opinion was palatable in two big media events this week - one in Brussels and another in Shenzhen.
Huawei's growing confidence in winning the argument in the court of public opinion was palatable in two big media events this week - one in Brussels and another in Shenzhen. Huawei Technologies sued the U.S. government on Thursday, arguing that part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act — a law that limits Huawei’s U.S. business — is unconstitutional because it singles out Huawei.
The Chinese telecom equipment giant said that it has been unfairly banned from the U.S. market.
The irony was not lost on me. Think about it: Here’s the Chinese company, not the U.S. company, suing the United States over Congress’s violation of the U.S. Constitution. According to Huawei, Congress broke constitutional principles on the separation of powers, and the act of singling out an individual or group for punishment without a trial is unconstitutional.
Nobody, however, should be surprised about Huawei’s escalated attacks on the United States. After all, this lawsuit is part of Huawei’s grand marketing campaign. Huawei sees it critical to protect its reputation on the global market. Even setting aside the United States, Huawei can’t afford to lose its foothold on the telecom network equipment market in Europe, Asia, or Africa.
In this latest lawsuit against the United States, Huawei is essentially following the same playbook that Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab used when it sued the U.S. government in December 2017, Jean Baptiste Su, principal analyst at Atherton Research, told EE Times.
Kaspersky then challenged a U.S. directive banning all use of its antivirus software by federal agencies over concerns about the Moscow-connected security firm’s links to the Russian government and espionage efforts. In filing a lawsuit at that time, Kaspersky said in a statement: “These actions were the product of unconstitutional agency and legislative processes and unfairly targeted the company without any meaningful fact finding.”
Huawei is making similar arguments in its court filing.
But Kaspersky eventually lost its case. “They lost because, well, it’s national security,” said Su. “However, we’ll have to wait and see how Huawei argues its case and if it can force the U.S. government to show some of the evidence it claims it has against Huawei.”
Su added: “If it doesn’t, and even if Huawei eventually loses the case, it will be a victory for the Chinese equipment vendor as it will be able to show the rest of the world — it doesn’t sell much in the U.S. anyway — that there is no such evidence of backdoors or cybersecurity threats.”
In other words, win or lose in the federal court, Huawei believes that it can win in the court of public opinion.
Huawei’s growing confidence in winning the argument was palatable when I met with Huawei people in Brussels this week. (There was the grand opening of Huawei’s Cyber Security Transparency Center in the nerve center of the EU.)
According to Huawei’s logic, if the United States can’t prove its allegations against Huawei with “verifiable facts,” well, then none of Huawei’s past wrongdoings alleged by the U.S. ever happened.
For sure, Huawei’s standing up against the United States creates a strong image of China. Telling Americans to “prove it!” is an even stronger message that must be very popular among the Chinese people.
But is it persuasive to many of us in the West? I am not so sure.
Personally, I am a bit worried if Huawei is reading the situation — how the world is viewing Huawei — correctly. My advice to Huawei is: Don’t get too cocky.
I met with a young Chinese employee of Huawei who happened to share a table with me during a buffet lunch in Brussels. She said that all this press about Huawei — good or bad — in recent months is “the best thing that has ever happened to Huawei.” Why? “It’s because now, everyone in the world knows the Huawei brand,” she said.
She’s got a point there.
But here’s the thing: Huawei still has work to do if it plans to regain its trust from the United States and from other countries. Let’s not forget that Huawei has never properly responded to other charges that the U.S. Justice Department filed against the Chinese company in January. Those cases include Huawei’s alleged connections to evading American sanctions on Iran and the company’s IP theft.