Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei held a “two hour” interview with the Economist on Tuesday. In it, he shared the firm’s strategy to get its 5G tech out there: selling it to a western buyer. Per the piece:
For a one-time fee, a transaction would give the buyer perpetual access to Huawei’s existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know-how. The acquirer could modify the source code, meaning that neither Huawei nor the Chinese government would have even hypothetical control of any telecoms infrastructure built using equipment produced by the new company. Huawei would likewise be free to develop its technology in whatever direction it pleases.
Smart? It’s certainly something I can imagine would appeal to those countries worried that pulling away from using Huawei is going to set their 5G ambitions back years.
Mr Ren seemed to have had a similar chat with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman. In his piece, Friedman expresses the growing sense of frustration among some technologists over the lack of (public) evidence to back up the claims that Huawei is not to be trusted. Friedman writes:
Microsoft President Brad Smith told Bloomberg Businessweek on Monday that when his company presses regulators to explain their Huawei ban, “oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us.’ And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know, so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’”
I have no idea who is telling the truth in this story. If Huawei really is a bad actor, let’s get the proof out there and blacklist the hell out of it. If it’s not so clear, the Trump team should at least explore Ren’s offer to see if there is a pathway for Huawei to assure American intelligence experts and demonstrate good behavior. Because Huawei is the tip of a huge iceberg.