Huawei Public Affairs Director Dave Harmon yesterday (18 November) addresed an EU-China research and innovation forum that was hosted by Ivo Hristov MEP and which was supported by STOA, the College of Europe and EU40.
Other speakers that addressed this forum included European Research Council President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Davide Cucino, the president Emeritus at the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and and Dr. Bernhard Muller who is a senior professor at the Technical University of Dresden.
Dave Harmon said: “Huawei as a company supports open innovation and actions that back open scientific activities in Europe and across the length and breadth of the world. Programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe are open by nature. This is the right political approach. This is because it will ensure that the best scientists across the world can and will work together in common cause to translate scientific effort into solutions for society. Science initiatives that are open will speed up the process of innovation. We are living through a digital transformation. ICT solutions are now modernizing different economic sectors across society and in a very speedy manner.
"The EU and China work on many common research initiatives including within the areas of urbanisation, agriculture, transport, aviation and health and the ICT sector underpins much of the collaborative actions within these policy spheres. This approach is enshrined within the framework agreements that the EU has with China that cover the science and technology sectors. Moreover, the EU Joint Research Centre has an MOU with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to work together on scientific advancement covering the transport, environment and agriculture sectors. The EU and China also has an innovation dialogue in place that is promoting higher levels of co-operation between the public and private sectors within the innovation policy space.
"China is now spending 2.5% GDP on research and development activities. This is ensuring that Chinese scientists can support global research measures that are successfully tackling the grand challenges that society faces today. Programmes such the EU-China mechanism for research and innovation that is administered by the Chinese ministry of science and Technology are ensuring higher levels of involvement from EU scientists in Chinese led research schemes. The European Commission sponsored Enrich initiative is also promoting higher levels of collaborative engagement between EU and Chinese researchers and business innovators alike.
"Huawei is an EU company. Huawei is deeply embedded within the ICT research eco-system. The company set up our first research centre in Sweden in the year 2000. Huawei has 230 technology partnerships with EU research institutes and collaborative arrangements with over 150 universities in Europe.
"Europe has great expertise and capabilities within the software engineering arena. Huawei, as a company ranks 5th in the 2019 European Commission Industrial Scoreboard for [email protected] Huawei has been an active participant in both FP7 and in Horizon 2020.
"Huawei is in a strong position to implement the policy goals of the European Union. International collaboration is a vital component within the research strategic space so as to ensure that EU policy objectives are fully implemented. Huawei wants to actively enable EU research and innovation actions under Horizon Europe and in particular in areas that will focus on the development of smart networks and services and the key digital technologies of the future.
"Moreover, there must be a stronger emphasis on green and environmental research at the basic and applied levels of scientific engagement. This will ensure that climate action targets will be reached and that the UN Sustainable Development Goals will be fully implemented.”
Dave Harmon is director for EU Public Affairs at Huawei Technologies and he is a former member in the cabinet of the EU Commissioner for research innovation and science 2010-2014.
Despite talk of digital sovereignty, Europe sleepwalks into Chinese dominance on drones
In her State of the European Union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered a clear-eyed assessment of the European Union’s position within the global digital economy. Alongside predictions of a European “digital decade” shaped by initiatives such as GaiaX, von der Leyen admitted Europe had lost the race on defining the parameters of personalized data, leaving Europeans “dependent on others”, writes Louis Auge.
Despite that straightforward admission, the question remains whether European leaders are willing to mount a consistent defence of their citizens’ data privacy, even as they accept reliance on American and Chinese firms. When it comes to challenging American social media or e-commerce giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Europe has no problem seeing itself as the global regulator.
In facing China, however, the European position often seems weaker, with governments only acting to curb the influence of Chinese technology suppliers such as Huawei under intense US pressure. Indeed, in one key area with serious implications for several economic sectors Commission President von der Leyen cited in her speech – unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones – Europe is allowing a single Chinese firm, DJI, to corner the market practically unopposed.
A trend accelerated by the pandemic
Shenzhen Dajiang Innovation Technologies Co. (DJI) is the unquestioned leader of a global drone market predicted to skyrocket to $42.8 billion in 2025; by 2018, DJI already controlled 70% of the market in consumer drones. In Europe, DJI has long been the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) supplier of choice for military and civilian government clients. The French military uses “commercial off-the-shelf DJI drones” in combat zones like the Sahel, while British police forces uses DJI drones to search for missing persons and manage major events.
The pandemic kicked that trend into high gear. In European cities including Nice and Brussels, DJI drones equipped with loudspeakers admonished citizens about confinement measures and monitored social distancing. DJI representatives have even tried to convince European governments to use their drones to take body temperatures or transport COVID-19 test samples.
This rapid expansion in the use of DJI drones runs counter to decisions being taken by key allies. In the United States, the Departments of Defense (the Pentagon) and the Interior have banned the use of DJI’s drones in their operations, driven by concerns over data security first uncovered by the US Navy in 2017. In the time since, multiple analyses have identified similar flaws in DJI systems.
In May, River Loop Security analyzed DJI’s Mimo app and found the software not only failed to adhere to basic data security protocols, but also that it sent sensitive data “to servers behind the Great Firewall of China.” Another cybersecurity firm, Synacktiv, released an analysis of DJI’s mobile DJI GO 4 application in July, finding the company’s Android software “makes use of the similar anti-analysis techniques as malware,” in addition to forcibly installing updates or software while circumventing Google’s safeguards. Synacktiv’s results were confirmed by GRIMM, which concluded DJI or Weibo (whose software development kit transmitted user data to servers in China) had “created an effective targeting system” for attackers – or the Chinese government, as US officials fear – to exploit.
To address the potential threat, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has introduced a small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) initiative to procure drones from trusted American and allied manufacturers; France’s Parrot is the only European (and, indeed, non-American) firm currently included. Last week, the Department of the Interior announced it would resume purchasing drones through the DIU sUAS program.
DJI’s security flaws have also sparked concern in Australia. In a consultation paper released last month, the Australian transport and infrastructure department flagged weaknesses in Australia’s defenses against “the malicious use of drones,” finding UAVs could potentially be used to attack the country’s infrastructure or other sensitive targets, or otherwise for purposes of “image and signals gathering” and other types of reconnaissance by hostile actors.
In Europe, on the other hand, neither the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI), nor the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) have taken public action on the potential dangers represented by DJI, even after the company’s products were found forcibly installing software and transferring European user data to Chinese servers without allowing consumers to control or object to those actions. Instead, the use of DJI drones by European military and police forces may appear to offer consumers a tacit endorsement of their security.
Despite an opaque ownership structure, links to Chinese state abound
Suspicions of DJI’s motives are not helped by the opacity of its ownership structure. DJI Company Limited, the holding company for the firm via the Hong Kong-based iFlight Technology Co., is based in the British Virgin Islands, which does not disclose shareholders. DJI’s fundraising rounds nonetheless point to a preponderance of Chinese capital, as well as linkages with China’s most prominent administrative bodies.
In September 2015, for example, New Horizon Capital – cofounded by Wen Yunsong, son of former premier Wen Jiabao – invested $300 million in DJI. That same month, New China Life Insurance, partly owned by China’s State Council, also invested in the firm. In 2018, DJI may have raised up to $1 billion ahead of a supposed public listing, although the identify of those investors remains a mystery.
DJI’s leadership structure also points to links with China’s military establishment. Co-founder Li Zexiang has studied or taught at a number of universities linked to the military, including the Harbin Institute of Technology – one of the 'Seven Sons of National Defence' controlled by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology – as well as the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), directly supervised by the Central Military Commission (CMC). Another executive, Zhu Xiaorui, served as DJI’s head of research and development up until 2013 – and now teaches at the Harbin University of Technology.
These links between DJI’s leadership and China’s military would seem to explain DJI’s prominent role in Beijing’s repression of ethnic minority groups. In December 2017, DJI signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Bureau of Public Security of the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, outfitting Chinese police units in Xinjiang with drones but also developing specialized software to facilitate missions for the “preservation of social stability.” DJI’s complicity in the campaign of “cultural genocide” against the Uighur population of Xinjiang burst into the headlines last year, when a leaked video – shot by a police-controlled DJI drone – documented a mass transfer of interned Uighurs. The company has also signed agreements with authorities in Tibet.
An inevitable crisis?
While DJI has gone to considerable efforts to counteract the findings of Western governments and researchers, even commissioning a study from consultancy FTI that promotes the security of its new “Local Data Mode” while sidestepping existing flaws, the monopolistic control of this emerging sector by a single firm with links to China’s security establishment and direct involvement in systemic human rights abuses could quickly become a problem for regulators in Brussels and the European capitals.
Given how prevalent drones have become across the wider economy, the security of the data they capture and transmit is a question European leaders will have to address – even if they prefer to ignore it.
EU and China co-operation in research and science is vitally important – in the delivery of economic development.
The EU-China Business Association (EUCBA) today held a highly successful and interactive webinar. The subject under discussion was on the importance of research and science co-operation in the delivery of economic recovery.
Gwenn Sonck the executive director of the EUCBA explained that “the EU-China Business Association promotes trade and investment between the EU and China and vice-versa.
It unites 19 Chinese business associations from 19 different countries in Europe, representing over 20,000 companies. This webinar is timely because both the EU and China are prioritising investment into research and science. Such investment accounts for 2.5% of Chinese GDP while the EU target for investment in research under Horizon Europe is 3%. The innovation co-operation dialogue that is taking place between the EU and China at this time will also set the framework conditions for this future bilateral relationship.”
Frances Fitzgerald MEP is a member of the European Parliament–China delegation and she is a former deputy Prime Minister from Ireland.
She said that “the research, science and innovation sectors are totally inter-linked. Countries and companies cannot do all the research on their own.
International collaboration is a key element in the delivery of new innovative products and solutions. This is particularly the case when the world is seeking to find a vaccine against Covid-19. Researchers from all over the world must work together to find a secure and trustworthy Covid-19 vaccine.
Openness, transparency, reciprocity and a rules based approach to international trade must underpin the EU-China relationship. But there is clearly a challenging geo-political environment. We are at a crossroads with regard to the EU-China relationship and EU leaders will meet on November 16th next to review EU-China relations.
455 Chinese companies took part in the Horizon 2020 research, innovation and science programme during the period 2014-2020. Chinese companies will continue to participate in Horizon Europe which is the new research, innovation and science framework programme that will run between the period 2021-2027.”
Zhiwei Song is the President of the EU-China Association for innovation and entrepreneurship. He said that “his association is supporting incubators and it is bridging the knowledge gap between the EU and China and between China and the EU.
His organisation is also organising online presentations to promote research mobility from the EU to China and vice-versa. It is participating in European Commission supported programmes such as Enrich and Euraxess. The former initiative furthers research co-operation between Europe and China while the later scheme promotes scientific collaboration in an international context.”
Abraham Liukang is the chief representative for Huawei to the EU institutions.
He said “Don’t believe all the press headlines. Huawei is no stranger to Europe. Huawei has been based in Europe for over 20 years.
Huawei has 23 research centres in Europe and we employ 2,400 researchers in Europe, 90% of whom are local hires. Huawei has been an active participant in research projects under the Horizon 2020 research, innovation and science programme 2014-2020.
Huawei has 230 technology agreements with research institutes in Europe and we have partnerships with over 150 universities in Europe.
Our engagement in Horizon 2020 related to research into improving the quality of digital infrastructure and this included 5G and big data research.
The roll-out of 5G has been politicised and this has had the direct effect of slowing down 5G deployment in Europe.
Huawei takes security issues very seriously and that is why Huawei has a cyber-security evaluation centre in the UK and we have an agreement on security isssues with BSI in Germany.
Huawei wants to engage actively in Horizon Europe and in particular in building the smart networks and services of the future.
Over the next 5 years, Huawei plans to invest 100 million euro into our AI eco-system programme in Europe, helping industry organisations, 200,000 developers, 500 ISV partners and 50 universities. Huawei will work with our partners to shape the AI industry in Europe.”
Veerle Van Wassenhove is the Vice-President for R&D and Innovation at Bekaert, a globally leading company with headquarters in Belgium and a strong research foothold in China. She said that “Bekaert’s research operations in China leverage the company’s global innovation capabilities. Together, we are building expertise for both the Chinese market and globally. Covid-19 brought along some difficulties because we, as researchers, want to keep direct contact with our customers in our technology approach, but we manage.”Yu Zhigao is the SVP Technology Rubber Reinforcement and head of the Bardec (R&D center in China). He said that “Bekaert has very strong confidence in China. There is excellent research and technical expertise in China. The company operates 18 sites in 10 cities in China and employs 220 researchers in the Jiangyin R&D center and 250 engineers and technicians in the Engineering site. The Chinese operations contribute to both world class research actions and to achieving the strategies of the company. Our research teams in China create value for our customers.”
Jochum Haakma is the chairperson of the EU-China Business Association.
He said that “the new EU investment screening regulation has only come into force since last Sunday. This means that from now on EU member states will have to consult with Brussels when screening Chinese direct investment measures in strategic sectors. I believe that it would be a very positive development if China and the EU were to agree the terms of a new trade and investment treaty. This is a matter that both sides are actively engaged in at this time. EU leaders will be discussing this important issue too when they convene for their European Council meeting in mid-November.
But the reality is that we do live in a complex world – where trade, politics and security issues at times seem to be inter-linked.
The digital economy is growing faster than the global economy.
And increased activity within the digital economy is going to play a key role in driving economic growth in both Europe and in China. However, one cannot build a strong digital economy without a sound foundation. And this foundation is built by governments in Europe and in China investing strongly in research, innovation and science. It is through advances in both basic and applied sciences that will deliver the innovation that is driving positive change within society today.”
How the West can avoid a dangerous and costly confrontation with #China