Five things to know about Huawei

Five things to know about Huawei

A photograph shows the logo of Chinese company Huawei at their main UK offices in Reading, west of London, on January 28, 2020

Britain on Tuesday indicated it would allow Huawei to take part in its 5G rollout, albeit with restrictions in the face of US pressure for allies to impose a blanket ban on the Chinese telecommunications giant.

The European Union's executive arm also said it would recommend that member states permit a level playing field in 5G, insisting that Huawei and other telecoms companies would have to abide by "strict" rules.

Here are five things to know about Huawei.

Founded by former People's Liberation Army engineer Ren in 1987, Huawei has grown into one of the world's biggest technology firms.

It is now the top producer of telecoms networking equipment and the number-two supplier of smartphones, behind Samsung and ahead of Apple.

Huawei equipment carries much of the world's data and communications traffic. It forms the backbone of most hyper-fast 5G networks, which will accelerate new technologies powered by artificial intelligence, such as driverless cars and remote robotics.

Ren's military background and the opaque culture of privately held Huawei have long fuelled suspicions of close ties to China's one-party security state.

This has stoked US fears that Beijing could use the firm as a Trojan horse for espionage or cyber-attacks, accusations that company executives strenuously reject.

The US administration has essentially barred Huawei from the US market and waged a global campaign to isolate the company.

The Sino-US standoff escalated in late 2018 when Ren's daughter and Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was detained in Canada on a US arrest warrant.

Hearings into whether she can be extradited to the United States began this month in Vancouver. The case was adjourned and is due to restart in April.

Meng, seen as a possible successor to Ren as chief executive, was held for allegedly lying to banks about violating Iran sanctions and put under house arrest. She denies the allegations.

Meng's case is being watched in part because of its potential ripple effect on ties between the three countries.

Her arrest caused an unprecedented rift between Canada and China, which then detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor on espionage suspicions.

Their arrests have been widely interpreted as retribution by Beijing aimed at pressuring Canada to free Meng. The two men remain in China's shadowy penal system.

On the other side is the United States, which while maintaining global pressure over Huawei has also now concluded an initial deal with China to end their lengthy trade war.

The US campaign for global allies to ban Huawei telecoms equipment has met with mixed success.

Australia and Japan have taken steps to block or restrict the Chinese company's participation in their 5G rollouts, and European telecoms operators including Norway's Telenor and Sweden's Telia have passed over Huawei as a supplier.

But several other European countries have not blocked the firm, and Tuesday's announcements by the EU and Britain will maintain Huawei's presence in key markets.

Still, Huawei executives are concerned, with chairman Eric Xu saying in a New Year message to staff that revenue for 2019 was likely to be lower than originally forecast.

"Survival will be our first priority" in 2020, he said.