Malaysia welcomes Chinese tech giant Huawei despite Western concerns

Malaysia welcomes Chinese tech giant Huawei despite Western concerns
  • The company has been banned from providing 5G network equipment in the US, New Zealand and Australia
  • But not in Malaysia, where its global training centre is based

Tashny Sukumaran
Published: 7:46pm, 15 Apr, 2019

South China Morning Post

Malaysia has extended a warm welcome to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei – but says it will carry out its own security checks into the controversial corporation.

Speaking after a tour of the company’s global training centre in Malaysia, Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said he understood that the Communications and Multimedia Ministry would be doing its own due diligence “but from my ministry’s perspective, the fact that Huawei continues to invest here in Malaysia, provide good quality jobs to Malaysians – this is something good for the long-term benefit of Malaysia as a country, and shows a very strong and strategic partnership we have with Huawei from an investment perspective.”

The lawmaker said he was confident that as more Chinese companies expanded operations to the Asean region, they would “see Malaysia as … a good place to recruit, train and also deploy talent”. Huawei’s partnership with major telco Maxis, he added, was a “good sign” of the confidence local players had in its technology.

His comments come in the wake of concerns from several Western nations over Huawei’s links to the Chinese government, with the US accusing the company of enabling state espionage.

Three members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – the US, New Zealand and Australia – have banned Huawei from providing 5G network equipment, while fellow member Canada has resolved to carry out its own security review.

European nations such as Germany, meanwhile, have set down firm security requirements for Huawei, which the company has maintained it will comply with. CEO Ren Zhengfei said it would sign a proposed ‘no-spy’ agreement, while underlining Huawei’s commitment to simple, secure and private networks.

The US has applied particular pressure on Huawei, banning federal agencies from using its equipment over security concerns – a ban that the company has challenged with a lawsuit. This January, a number of US universities also set about getting rid of Huawei equipment to prevent losing federal funding, after President Donald Trump signed a law banning recipients of state funds from using equipment, services or components from a host of Chinese companies, including Huawei.

In Malaysia, analysts said they were sceptical about the government’s ability to conduct security checks given the newness of 5G technology.

“The baseline of comparison is limited,” says Alan Yau, chief technical officer for cybersecurity solutions provider SysArmy. “At the moment, we can only use 4G tests for 5G. Most 5G advancements come from China, so there isn’t much methodology from the West to test it at the moment. Tests will come only when the tech is more matured.”

Dhillon Kannabhiran, founder of the Hack in the Box collective that organises a regular regional security conference, brushed off Western concerns.

“The question is more of whether Huawei would be the best choice, and how dependent we would be on a single vendor. Security issues aren’t really a technology problem at the end of the day, they are a people problem. So it doesn’t really matter which vendor Malaysia ends up using. The end users are the issue … All vendors have bugs.”