Huawei’s charm offensive around the world raises hard questions amid spying allegations – National

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Canada’s nationwide recreation – dropped at you by China’s Huawei.

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As a nasty diplomatic feud deepens between the 2 international locations over the tech firm, involving arrests and execution orders, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Huawei’s vivid pink fan-shaped emblem is plastered prominently on the set of “Hockey Night time in Canada.” TV hosts usually remind the 1.eight million weekly viewers that program segments are “introduced by Huawei smartphones.”

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The cheery company message contrasts with the standoff over the arrest of Huawei Chief Monetary Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant. In what seems to be like retaliation, China detained two Canadians and plans to execute a 3rd – heavy-handed techniques that, as a result of they depart some Canadians with the impression the privately owned firm is an arm of the Chinese language authorities, give its sponsorship a surreal high quality.

The TV deal is one in all many examples of how Huawei, the world’s largest telecom gear producer and one of many high smartphone makers, has launched into a worldwide push to win shoppers and burnish its model. It sponsors Australian rugby, funds analysis at universities world wide, and brings international college students to China for technical coaching. It has promoted classical music live shows in Europe and donated pianos to New Zealand colleges.

Its efforts are actually threatened by the dispute with Canada and U.S. accusations that it may assist China’s authoritarian authorities spy on individuals world wide.

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“Huawei’s advertising and marketing plan up till Dec. 1 (when Meng was arrested) was working very effectively,” mentioned Man Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China. Now, “public opinion is altering towards China and Huawei.”

At stake for Huawei are profitable contracts to supply new superfast cell networks referred to as 5G. The U.S. says Meng helped break sanctions and accuses Huawei of stealing commerce secrets and techniques. It additionally says the corporate may let the Chinese language authorities faucet its networks, which within the case of 5G would cowl large quantities of shopper knowledge worldwide. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed that time to European allies on a tour this week.

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Huawei, which didn’t reply to requests for remark for this story, has beforehand rejected the allegations. The Chinese language authorities says Huawei’s critics had been fabricating threats.

Nonetheless, the headlines have been relentlessly detrimental.

“In some unspecified time in the future there might be a majority of Canadians that may say ‘We don’t suppose the federal government ought to do enterprise with Huawei,”‘ mentioned Saint-Jacques.

There’s no proof of sinister intentions behind Huawei’s advertising and marketing, which isn’t not like that of Western multinationals, though its efforts have been unusually sturdy for a corporation from China, the place manufacturers have struggled to seize world consideration.

Rogers Communications, which broadcasts “Hockey in Night time in Canada” and has unique Canadian distribution rights for Huawei smartphones, mentioned it has no plans to alter its sponsorship deal, which began in 2017 and runs to the top of 2020.

WATCH: Trudeau says Canada to carry agency on ‘rule of regulation’ as U.S. prices Huawei officers

In Australia, the Canberra Raiders rugby group indicated it might renew a Huawei sponsorship deal this yr regardless of a authorities ban on utilizing its tools in 5G networks.

Huawei has additionally ventured into excessive tradition by utilizing its smartphone synthetic intelligence to finish the remaining actions in German composer Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. eight,” often known as the “Unfinished Symphony.” It held a symphony orchestra live performance in London this month to carry out the finished rating.

And Huawei has an unlimited community of relationships with universities world wide by way of analysis partnerships and scholarships. It has helped fund a 25 million pound ($32 million) joint analysis challenge at Britain’s Cambridge College.

Some universities have begun to rethink their collaborations, though there’s no allegation of wrongdoing by Huawei. Universities level out that corporations that fund analysis don’t mechanically personal any ensuing patents.

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Britain’s Oxford College stopped accepting Huawei’s cash final month. Stanford College adopted swimsuit after U.S. prosecutors unsealed practically two dozen prices towards the corporate, as did the College of California at Berkeley, which additionally eliminated an off-campus videoconferencing set-up donated by Huawei based mostly on steerage from the Division of Defence.

Confronted with these setbacks, Huawei has responded by stepping up its public relations efforts.

Its usually reclusive chairman, Ren Zhengfei, final month held three media briefings, fielding questions from Western, Japanese and Chinese language journalists.

The corporate will probably be out in power this month on the Cell World Congress, a significant telecom business gathering in Barcelona, Spain. It’s anticipated to unveil its newest smartphone, a 5G system with a folding display. Firm executives are scheduled to temporary analysts and provides shows on 5G expertise.

Huawei is a company sponsor of the present and Ren is predicted to attend to assist win enterprise offers, although U.S. officers are reportedly anticipated to end up in power to foyer towards Huawei.

The corporate final week hosted a Lunar New Yr reception in Brussels for the European Union diplomatic group, in a ballroom commissioned by Belgium’s King Leopold II. There was a piano live performance, a jazz efficiency, a bubble tea bar, and a speech by Huawei’s chief EU consultant, Abraham Liu.

Commerce minister expects Canadian enterprise curiosity in China to sluggish amid diplomatic spat

“We’re shocked or generally really feel amused by these ungrounded and mindless allegations,” Liu informed the reception visitors, including that the corporate is “keen to just accept the supervision” from governments in Europe, Huawei’s largest market after China. Huawei plans to open a cybersecurity centre in Brussels subsequent month, he mentioned.

To draw high expertise, Huawei runs a program referred to as “Seeds for the Future,” underneath which it sends college students from greater than 100 international locations to China to check Mandarin and get technical coaching at its headquarters.

Shanthi Kalathil, director of the Nationwide Endowment for Democracy’s Worldwide Discussion board for Democratic Research, sees Huawei’s allure offensive dovetailing with broader efforts by China to affect the worldwide debate on the federal government’s surveillance and censorship it makes use of.

WATCH: Ought to Canada lower all ties with Huawei

“It’s not like an afterthought. That’s the basis of the whole system,” she mentioned.

Whether or not or not Huawei is linked to the Chinese language authorities or merely defended as a company champion, the combat over the corporate exhibits how world powers see expertise because the entrance line within the combat for financial supremacy.

“Right now’s innovation financial system relies on IP (mental property) and knowledge,” mentioned Jim Balsillie, the previous chairman and co-CEO of BlackBerry-maker Analysis in Movement. “So mushy energy is the perfect device for advancing nationwide pursuits as a result of the battle is just not about armies and tanks.”


Chan reported from London.

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