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Huawei is national security issue, not trade football for our leaders

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Put simply, Huawei is a national security and intelligence issue. It is not a football to be thrown around in trade discussions with China. However, there is a danger that this could become the narrative and undermine the progress made to date and weakening the arguments against Huawei.

President Trump recently said, “If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form or some part of it.” This is precisely the wrong message and represents a gross misunderstanding of the real threat that Huawei poses to the United States and our European allies.

Over the last 18 months, we have seen significant progress, albeit with fits and starts, on educating Congress, the public, and our partners and allies of just how significant a threat Huawei is to our collective security. It is, for all intents and purposes, an arm of the Chinese Ministry of State Security. It is a tool of the stated goal of Beijing to achieve “digital dominance” by 2025 and aims to control the flow of data worldwide to benefit China.

As a company, Huawei acts much less like a global business and far more like a nation state intelligence apparatus of a criminal syndicate. If you are still not convinced, read the federal indictment of Huawei from the Justice Department. Huawei conducts corporate and industrial espionage, usurps national laws, pays bribes, and violates sanctions. We have finally seen the fruits of our campaign to shed light on all this.

This year, the United States government added Huawei to a Commerce Department “entity list” necessitating special approval to do business. ZTE, another Chinese telecommunications company, was added to this list and subsequently removed last year. President Trump has also signed an executive order creating a process that could lead to banning the use of communications equipment from companies deemed a national security risk. While it did not identify expressly Huawei, the effect is all the same.

Internationally, our partners and allies are waking up to the risk posed by Huawei and similar companies. Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries, have all taken steps to prevent Huawei from accessing their communications networks. These efforts are to be applauded. The problem is, however, that the remarks of President Trump and inclusion of Huawei in trade negotiations or discussions undermines the real national security rationale and provides further unnecessary fodder for those who say this is purely protectionist policy or just part of a broader trade war.

To be clear, I along with Representative Dutch Ruppersberger raised the alarm in Congress in 2012, well before this latest trade war erupted and well before President Trump entered office. Then, as now, our biggest fears were about national security and intelligence. They were not about trade or commerce. The behavior of Huawei, its sheer efforts to penetrate national communications networks, and its ties to the Chinese communist government truly represent a clear and present national security threat.

To arbitrarily connect Huawei to ongoing trade discussions fundamentally undermines and weakens the potency of that argument. Our European allies will simply point to the words of President Trump and say that they “knew it was a trade issue” all along. Beijing could also point and say that it is merely protectionism disguised in national security dressing. Huawei is a security national threat, full stop, and it needs to be treated as such.

Mike Rogers is a former member of Congress from Michigan who served as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Today he is the David Abshire Chair at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress and founder of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence and Global Affairs.

Tags China Donald Trump Government Huawei Mike Rogers Policy Security Trade

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