The US campaign against Huawei is causing some countries to think twice about using the Chinese company’s products. Malaysia is not one of them. “We try to make use of their technology as much as possible,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in Tokyo on Thursday, before praising Huawei’s research prowess.
The Trump administration has for months waged a campaign against Huawei, preventing US companies from selling components to the telecom equipment maker and urging allies not to use its products in their 5G networks. The United States claims that Beijing could use Huawei equipment to spy on other countries, a charge the company has repeatedly denied.
The fight is forcing governments and telecom providers to make tough choices about using Huawei gear in their next-generation networks. A handful of big telecom companies have already ruled out using its products.
This week, Huawei lost out to Sweden’s Ericsson (ERIC) and Finland’s Nokia (NOK) on securing 5G contracts from Japanese carrier SoftBank (SFBTF), which has previously partnered with Huawei on 5G experiments.
Earlier this year, Huawei partnered with Malaysian mobile carrier Maxis to carry out 5G trials in the country. It also sells smartphones in Malaysia and has an office there, according to its website. Mahathir signaled that his government is unlikely to take a hard line even as he acknowledged security concerns around Huawei.
“We are too small to have an effect on [the company],” the prime minister said. “Yes, there may be some spying. But what is there to spy in Malaysia? We are an open book.” Glenn Schloss, a Huawei spokesperson, said Friday that “we have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any government.”
The US campaign shows no signs of letting up. The Trump administration has already forbid government agencies from using technology from Huawei. And earlier this month, it placed Huawei on a list of foreign firms deemed to undermine American national security or foreign policy interests. That effectively bars US companies from doing business with Huawei.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that US efforts were designed to “ensure the networks in which American information flows are trusted” and that it “doesn’t end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” “It’s pretty straightforward,” he told reporters in Germany.
Mahathir has another view. He said that rising tensions are likely driven by the Chinese company’s “tremendous advance” over US technology. “If you want to have a situation in which you are always ahead, [and] if you are not ahead [you say], ‘I will ban you’ … that is not competition,” said the prime minister.
“We have to accept that the US cannot forever be the supreme nation in the world that can have the best technology in the world,” he added.