Huawei, ZTE probed on possible Chinese government ties, business in Iran

A House intelligence committee is stepping up its probe of Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE in the U.S. infrastructure market, and has asked the companies for information on their ties to the Chinese government and other U.S. companies.

The investigation was first announced in November, but on Tuesday the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence sent letters to Huawei and ZTE detailing the committee's concerns, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The concerns include the presence of a so-called "party committee" inside Huawei, and it questioned Huawei about its relationships with five U.S. consulting firms, including IBM, Accenture and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The companies were also asked about their business inside Iran and funding arrangements with Beijing. 

Both Huawei and ZTE have long emphatically denied any direct ties to the Chinese government or military, yet both have had minimal success securing network infrastructure contracts from Tier 1 carriers in the U.S. market. However, both companies' device businesses have found favor with U.S. carriers.

The probe reflects a long-standing view within the U.S. government--which the companies reject as incorrect--that the Chinese government could use the companies' gear to hack into U.S. networks if the firms were allowed to gain a larger presence in the market.

Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer told the Journal that the company is reviewing the letter and looks forward to answering the committee's questions. Following the investigation, he said "we look forward to refocused attention to addressing the true threats to critical infrastructure."

ZTE spokesman Mitchell Peterson said "as recognized by the committee, ZTE is committed to 'remaining transparent, candid, and cooperative' throughout this inquiry."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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