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Huawei WILL make a comeback to US market, policy wonk predicts

Back doors? Are we talking about the NSA now?

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A senior member of a prestigious US think tank has predicted the US government will eventually cave in and roll out the red carpet to Chinese networking giant Huawei.

Darrell West, VP and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, made the call in an analysis of IT globalization and innovation at a conference in Milan last week.

West, in a survey of innovation worldwide, identified lagging regulation and protective sentiments as one of the potential brakes on the growth of ICT. Access to capital, research-focused universities and private and public spending on R&D were also key components, he said.

One firm that knows all about those factors is Huawei.

Huawei has long been the target of regulatory and political pressure in the US. It first came to many people’s notice when it was sued by Cisco over a decade ago for alleged IP violations. That case was settled, but not before assorted whispering campaigns had noted its founder’s one-time membership of the PLA and made insinuations about backdoors to Beijing.

An attempted takeover of erstwhile networking giant 3Com was blocked, and the company effectively called time on its efforts to target the US a couple of years ago.

However, Cisco and other US tech firms, including service providers, have found themselves on the wrong end of similar claims, this time from China in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations that the US spookocracy had compromised technologies, products and networks to allow it to collect information.

"I think the way that Huawei has been singled out by the US government has been unfair and counterproductive," said West, at the Huawei-sponsored conference.

West said that IT was operating within a global economy, where each country faces security challenges, and were varied in their approach to privacy.

But he continued, Huawei had done well outside its home base in China, building up both a business and R&D base in Europe. The company has made a clear effort to embed itself in the European techno-political scene, getting involved in EU development initiatives and seeking a seat at the standards bodies defining new generations of comms technologies.

West also noted the irony that while it was locked out of the US us tech market, Huawei was still involved in R&D within the US university sector.

“I think it’s likely a matter of time before these types of US policies change,” West said.

Just to allay any UK fears about backdoors, Huawei submitted itself to an inspection regime which sees its kit pulled apart to expose any threats to UK critical infrastructure. However, that regime came under fire late last year, when it emerged the facility was know as the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) and was staffed by Huawei's own employees who had been vetted by GCHQ. Questions were raised about a potential conflict of interest and GCHQ is to take a more active role in overseeing the facility. ®

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