Private Interests above National Ones: the Czech Huawei Affair

While Western countries increasingly worry about the alleged espionage conducted by the Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in Beijing's favour, the Czech president Miloš Zeman is adamant in his pro-Huawei and pro-Chinese stance despite the warnings issued by the Czech secret service as well as a national cybersecurity institution. Could his stance be motivated by personal gain and private company lobbying?

 

In the contemporary world, states find it ever more difficult to find the right ratio of balance between pursuing development through cooperation with China and guarding national interests and security against it. This is also the case with the Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which, although offering affordable and thus attractive services, is burdened with accusations of providing its devices with spyware and “sleeping” backdoor. The company was thus expelled from the US market and is facing similar bias in Australia, New Zealand or Great Britain, while other EU countries are also considering tougher stance against Huawei’s products.

On this issue, the Czech Republic once again goes against the stream with the Czech president Miloš Zeman loudly advocating for Huawei and denouncing Huawei-related warnings issued by the Czech Security Information Service as well as the National Cyber and Information Security Agency.

 

The president’s office has also established a deal with Huawei, obtaining its products in exchange for the promotion of the conglomerate.

 

This comes as no surprise considering Zeman’s attacks against the Czech Security Information Service conclusions on Russian and Chinese spy activities in Czechia. But this time Zeman’s efforts did not end with just public statements. The president’s office has also established a deal with Huawei, obtaining its products in exchange for the promotion of the conglomerate.

What is even more worrying is the shady connection of the Czech billionaire Petr Kellner to the Czech cabinet and to China. Kellner, lobbying for improvement of Czech-Chinese relations, accompanied Zeman on his first official presidential visit to Beijing. Later on, Kellner’s company PPF proudly proclaimed its role in the resurgence of Czech-Chinese relations and Kellner himself joined Zeman for an official discussion on the economic relations with China. Shortly after, PPF’s subsidiary, Home Credit, became one of the biggest non-bank consumer lending companies in China – an achievement that many Western companies only dream of. The situation culminated in recent days as Zeman voiced his concerns over PPF’s businesses in China related to the current witch-hunt on Huawei.

 

Huawei hardware and software is vastly incorporated in the Czech public administration posing a potential threat to the state's crucial infrastructure.

 

It thus seems that for the Czech president, the private interests of Peter Kellner are superior to those of the national security since Huawei hardware and software is vastly incorporated in the Czech public administration and its products are being used by the Czech armed forces, the Office of the Government, the State Office for Nuclear Safety, the Air Navigation Services and other institutions crucial to the state’s infrastructure.

Zeman is to meet the Czech PM Andrej Babiš next week to discuss the issue. Babiš has so far been rather reserved in his opinion regarding this matter. He nevertheless pulled off his classic chameleon-like move and made sure to express that he will seriously deal with the potential threat while simultaneously assuring the Chinese ambassador to the Czech Republic that the standpoints of the relevant Czech security institutions do not mirror the ones of the government. Thus, it is not hard to imagine the joint conclusion of both the Czech president and the PM on this matter, given their mutually cultivated bromance affair.



About author: Jonáš Vlk

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