Huawei has endured a tenuous relationship with the United States for a decade, reaching a boiling point last week when the Trump administration banned American corporations from doing business with the Chinese company.
Although the United States has long suspected Huawei of engaging in illegal activity, it’s not clear that Huawei did anything specific recently to become the object of such concern. The ban came as something of a surprise to observers.
The Trump administration temporarily eased up — just a bit — on its restrictions Monday. But the reprieve was narrow and aimed at a small group of rural American network providers that use Huawei equipment. For Huawei and most American companies, the ban remains firmly in place.
What landed Huawei in such hot water with US officials?
The US-China trade war
The United States and China have been embroiled in a bitter trade war for more than a year, and Huawei has been stuck in the middle of it.
Huawei could serve as an enormous bargaining chip: It is a gigantic Chinese telecommunications company with ambitions to become the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker and one of a small handful of companies that makes 5G networking equipment for wireless companies. Huawei posted $105 billion in sales last year, more than IBM.
President Donald Trump has suggested that he could consider easing up on Huawei as part of ongoing trade talks with China.
Ties to China’s government
In 2012, the US House Intelligence Committee published a report following a year-long investigation that found Huawei posed a security threat to the United States. The report concluded that Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE acted on behalf of the Chinese government, and they should not be allowed to operate critical US infrastructure that controls the country’s wireless networks.
Huawei says it operates independently of the Chinese government, but the United States has long suspected the company of spying on the networks its technology operates. Huawei has repeatedly denied allegations of spying, but the United States has p