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The USA and Australia have issued warnings about the risks that may be associated with equipment sourced from Chinese telecommunications giants ZTE and Huawei.
This must put New Zealand in a very awkward situation.
On the one hand, our politicians call the USA "master" and are often heard to inquire of their star-spangled overlords: "how high?"
On the other hand, those same politicians seem hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to curry favour with China -- to the extent of selling some of the nation's prime diary land to them.
Let's not forget that NZ is also very much in bed with the USA with respect to the ECHELON spy-base and other intelligence-gathering activities, many based on intercepting telecommunications activities.
How long before the USA starts putting "the hard word" on the NZ government in respect to dealings with ZTE and Huawei -- especially when you consider that a significant part of our new UFB is being built with Huawei's gear?
I can see that the Americans won't be at all keen to share any intelligence data with New Zealand when they know that, according to their own warnings, there's a high degree of risk associated with the security of that information once it hits NZ's internal data networks.
Sooner or later, the NZ government is going to have to choose sides.
What do they risk -- the loss of the FTA with China and a more hostile partner on all those Crafar farms?
Or alienating what is still the world's single most powerful nation -- and risk losing all those photo-ops with Seven of Nine and a Desperate Housewife?
A difficult decision for those who are as shallow and myopic as our current crop of politicians.
But just how much veracity can be ascribed to the USA's warnings with respect to companies such as Huawei?
Huawei has denied that it has any links with the Chinese government -- which must be the most disingenuous statement I've heard for some time.
All Chinese companies have links with the Chinese government -- we are talking about a communist country where the power of the state over its people and their businesses is unquestionable.
From China's perspective, it would be a brilliant strategy to gain a powerful grip on the West's data infrastructure by ensuring that you had backdoors into as many data networks as possible. You can bet that if the USA could do the same thing to China, they would.
I have no doubt at all that Huawei is not snowy white and that there is at least a huge potential (even if not realised) for that company's position to be leveraged by the Chinese government "for the national good".
Is it wise therefore, that NZ has gone with Huawei as the key supplier of gear for our own nation-wide ultra-fast broadband network?
I suspect there is no answer to that question.
On the one hand, if it does leave us vulnerable to Sino-spying then so what?
On the other hand, how much of the valuable IP we ought to be developing and leveraging to sustain our export levels going in to a period when transport costs could severely damage our commodity and primary exports -- might be lost to such covert espionage?
Let's face it -- the human race is a nasty piece of work. Evolutionary pressures ensure that we will take advantage of whatever methods we can to ensure that we (as individuals) have the maximum chance to survive and prosper. China and the USA are as driven by these forces as anyone -- hence you can't rule out *anything* in the wicked world of spying, espionage and subterfuge.
I'm picking (as I suggested earlier) that sooner or later, we will have to chose sides as these two superpowers go head-to-head in a battle that may involve more than bits and bytes.
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