Yesterday The New York Times published an explosive report claiming that Chinese spies have been eavesdropping on calls made on President Trump’s personal, unsecured iPhone. How did China respond today? By suggesting Trump switch to a Huawei phone.
Hua Chunying, frequent official spokesperson and deputy director of the Chinese foreign ministry’s information department, said “If they are very worried about iPhones being tapped, they can use Huawei,” as reported by The Washington Post’s Luna Lin. Hua went on to dismiss the NYT’s report as “fake news,” according to the South China Morning Post. “Seeing this report, I feel there are those in America who are working all-out to win the Oscar for best screenplay,” she is reported to have said.
The suggestion that Trump use a Huawei phone is, of course, barbed with the context that the US government has essentially frozen the Chinese giant out of doing business in America. Earlier this year the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA all warned US citizens against using Huawei’s products, while AT&T pulled a planned launch for the company’s Mate 10 Pro flagship phone at the last moment following political pressure.
Huawei has long been under suspicion for its ties to the Chinese government. It was founded by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei, and its private ownership structure is entirely opaque. Any serious association with the Xi administration would be alarming given its well-documented disregard for citizens’ privacy.
However, Huawei provides infrastructure and consumer devices to almost all of the US’ major allies, and the US is yet to substantiate its warnings. The UK government, for instance, set up and oversees a cybersecurity facility in England that is dedicated to finding backdoors in Huawei products and is yet to turn up much of note. Meanwhile, Edward Snowden’s leaks showed how the NSA has been spying on Huawei for years.
Anyway, in case Trump decides to take China’s advice to heart, he could do worse than to read Vlad Savov’s review of the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei’s latest flagship. Perhaps he will be more forgiving of the various software quirks.