Preserving national security is obviously crucially important, but that concern is hardly the preserve of any one country. The US government seems to have forgotten this in banning Huawei from bidding for a major US telecommunications contract:
Worried about potential spying, the U.S. government has blocked a bid from China’s telecommunications giant Huawei to help build a new national wireless network for first responders such as police, firefighters, and ambulances.
Huawei “will not be taking part in the building of America’s interoperable wireless emergency network for first responders due to U.S. government national-security concerns,” Commerce Department spokesman Kevin Griffis told The Daily Beast.
What's the fear here?
Griffis declined to elaborate on those concerns. But current and retired U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast the longstanding concern about Huawei is that the company’s chips, routers, and other technical equipment will be bugged in a way that gives China’s government a cyber back door into sensitive information networks.
The technique of bugging equipment or writing software in such a way as to allow undetected access has also been used by U.S. intelligence agencies in the past to gain a window into the communications of other foreign governments.
So, in effect, the US government is worried that the Chinese might do to it what the US has done to other governments.
That's a perfectly reasonable fear: by now, the Chinese intelligence agencies doubtless have the technological capability to do so. But China actually has rather more grounds for concern when buying US communications technology or software: after all, the US has already carried out spying in this way.
This latest move just gives China the perfect excuse for blocking US companies bidding for "sensitive" Chinese projects in the future. When the US complains – as it surely will – the Chinese will simply point back to this episode, noting the symmetry of the situation, and their own worries about national security.
Wouldn't it have been wiser to come up with better tools for detecting attempts to introduce back doors into hardware and software? That would have raised the US's general readiness in this area against all such threats, not just those from China, and would not have given China or any other country a pretext for shutting the US out from their markets.