Malaysia to use Huawei tech ‘as much as possible’, says Dr M amid US ban


Malaysia will continue to use Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s technology “as much as possible”, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said amid the US ban on Huawei products due to the firm’s alleged involvement in espionage activities.

The Chinese technology giant, which has agreements with several Malaysian telecommunications companies to trial 5G networks locally, has “a tremendous advance over American technology”, Dr Mahathir said at the annual Future of Asia conference in Tokyo yesterday.

“Huawei’s research is far bigger than the whole of Malaysia’s research capabilities. So, we try to make use of their technology as much as possible. Everybody knows, if any country wants to invade Malaysia, they can walk through and we will not resist because it’s a waste of time,” he said.

The 93-year-old’s comments contrasted sharply with the Trump administration’s war on the telecoms network gear provider and smartphone maker, rooted in allegations that Huawei’s products and technologies could be used in Beijing’s spying activities.

On May 17, the US placed Huawei on a trade blacklist, prohibiting the Chinese company from procuring the US-made software and components required to manufacture its products.

Several companies have retreated from ties with Huawei following the US blacklist, citing legal issues, while certain countries had earlier barred Huawei from participating in their domestic mobile networks.

“Yes, there may be some spying. But what is there to spy (on) exactly in Malaysia? We are an open book,” Dr Mahathir said.

He cautioned against the ongoing US-China trade spat that has affected “the whole world”, adding that the US must accept that Asian research and development capabilities are now on par with that of the US.

“As they say, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled under. This is happening now.

“If you want to have a situation where you are always ahead and when you are not ahead, (you say) ‘I will ban you and send warships’ — that is not competition. That is threatening,” he said.

While the US’ increasingly extreme actions against Huawei appear to be in the name of defending national security, US President Donald Trump said at a White House press conference last Thursday that he “could imagine Huawei possibly being included in some form of, or some part of a trade deal”, suggesting that blacklisting Huawei could be more of a trade negotiation move against Beijing.

The US sanctions on Huawei have already affected chipmakers worldwide amid concerns of the impact of the ban on the global supply chain.

While Huawei’s primary business is in smartphones, it is also a global leader in telecoms infrastructure and was one of the pioneers of 5G, the next generation of mobile Internet connectivity projected to underpin many revolutionary technologies such as robotics and autonomous driving.

The company has said it will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold or are still in stock globally.

It has also indicated that self-reliance may be the way to go, with founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei saying in a Bloomberg Television interview the company may turn to its own chips that it has been designing for years, and which are currently used in the firm’s own smartphones.

Malaysia is not alone in its stance regarding Huawei. While several large economies have allied with the US, Huawei yesterday launched an open 5G lab in South Korea. Singapore-based mobile carrier M1 Ltd also said earlier this week that it is open to more dealings with Huawei.