If this was a heavyweight championship match and we were in the mid rounds of the contest, the U.S. government would certainly be winning on my scorecard by a wide margin. But don’t count Huawei out just yet. The Chinese smartphone maker has come out swinging this week as it looks to battle back against what it considers unlawful actions by U.S. lawmakers.
In its most aggressive move to date, Huawei has filed a lawsuit in Texas that challenges a recent U.S. law that bans federal agencies from buying its products. Huawei’s American headquarters are located in Plano, Texas. The National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed last summer and signed into law by President Trump in August, forbids government agencies from using products made by Huawei and its Chinese rival ZTE. Officials pushed the law through because of concerns that the Chinese government could muscle its way onto those companies’ servers to access sensitive information about their users.
Huawei Deputy Chairman Guo Ping accused the U.S. government of acting as “judge, jury, and executioner” on the matter, during a press conference held at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen on Thursday. “This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming US consumers,” he said.
Huawei contends that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution by signaling out an individual or group for punishment without a fair trial, adding that Congress has “repeatedly failed to produce any evidence” that would support its restrictions on the company's products.
The lawsuit caps a string of events over the past year or so, during which Huawei has seen a bull’s eye placed on its back by the U.S. government. That includes Huawei’s top financial officer being arrested in Canada and extradited to the U.S., an FBI sting at CES 2019, President Trump urging U.S. allies to avoid using Huawei products, the loss of its retail relationship with Best Buy, and an eleventh-hour cancellation of its deal with AT&T after the carrier was pressured by the U.S. government.
During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray directly addressed the U.S. intelligence community’s concerns regarding Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government, saying their relationship “provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”
Despite all of this, Huawei has moved itself into a strong position globally as a smartphone manufacturer. Last summer, the company overtook Apple as the second-largest smartphone maker, and it hasn’t looked back since. Part of that success has been because of the company’s strategy in the Asian market, where Apple has notably struggled.