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LSE IDEAS hosts discussion on significance of Huawei controversy

LSE IDEAS, The London School of Economics’ foreign policy think tank, have released a discussion piece reflecting on the Huawei controversy, which has seen Chinese manufacturer Huawei see the use of it’s products effectively ‘banned’ in the US and the UK, with the company being frozen out of 5G infrastructure plans and significant restrictions placed on the company’s handsets (the latest phones are not able to run on Google’s Android operating system, putting them at a distinct competitive disadvantage).

A recent contribution to LSE IDEAS’ China Foresight Forum, the discussion piece was written collaboratively by Dr Jonathan Liebenau, Associate Professor of Technology Management in LSE’s Department of Management, and Dr Bingchun Meng, Associate Professor in LSE’s Department of Media and Communications.

Within the discussion it was said that the debate over Huawei highlights that control over global communications technologies has always been crucial for world leadership and will continue to become even more important, as they come to underpin nearly every facet of modern infrastructure.

Alongside this, the experts also pointed out that international pushback on Huawei will intensify the debate in China on strengthening self-reliance and leading on international standards-setting, especially in communications.

The piece is the first in a four-part series which will discuss the broader technology environment around communications, as well as implications for policymakers and the private sector.

Within the discussion, Dr Jonathan Liebenau, Reader in Technology Management in LSE’s Department of Management, said:

“The irony of the Western coalition’s suspicions about Huawei is that many make assumptions about what it could be doing based not on evidence, but on what we know it is capable of doing because we saw, in the Edward Snowden revelations, what US companies actually did.

Otherwise the key concerns of governments are with the value that accrues to their domestic economies. Concerns for the integrity of military communications and more arcane uses by intelligence services seem a red herring for now–these have almost always been set apart from civil communications uses.”

Dr Bingchun Meng, Associate Professor in LSE’s Department of Media and Communications, said:

“There are probably two assumptions underpinning the U.S. allegation. The first is the omnipotence of Chinese government – that it can demand compliance of any private companies. The doomsday scenario is repeatedly depicted by Western politicians that “even if everything is fine now, one day the Chinese government could ask Huawei to open a backdoor to its network and the company will have to follow the order”.

The second is based on the long but veiled tradition of the collusion between U.S. government and private companies of strategic importance.”

Link to LSE IDEAS’ Huawei discussion:


Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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