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Huawei chief: The world needs an open approach to scientific research

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At the webinar for Beijing-based research and science attaches from Europe and from the EU, I made the following comment on the subject of research collaboration in Europe: “The nationalization of scientific activity – country by country – is not what the world needs at this time,” writes Abraham Liu.

Here’s why

The events surrounding COVID-19 have given us all some time to reflect upon many different issues – some are of a micro or personal scale – others have a larger macro-economic dimension.

But as the world is embarking on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, there is one clear dawning realization for us all to reflect upon.

Abraham Liu

Abraham Liu

Research, educational, private, and public bodies from all over the world must collaborate on basic and applied research. Without intensive international engagement and co-operation, society will not be able to benefit from new innovative products and services. Governments and the private sector alike must substantially invest in basic scientific research if the new prodateucts of tomorrow are going to be delivered into the global marketplace.

The process of innovation must not be confined to any one company or any one country. Scientific excellence working together across borders can create new products that address key socioeconomic challenges in the world today. That is why so many multi-jurisdictional research teams across the globe are working on a vaccine for COVID-19.

The same principle – namely the need for international engagement and co-operation – applies to the ICT sector and to the capability to bring new technological innovations into the marketplace.

Huawei is one of the most innovative companies in the world.

Under the EU industrial scoreboard for research and development 2019 Huawei ranks fifth in the world in terms of the levels of financial investment that the company makes in the fields of R&D. This a  finding of the European Commission having surveyed 2,500 companies in the world that invest a minimum of €30 million in R&D per annum. We:

  • Run 23 research centres in 12 countries in Europe.
  • Hold 240+ technology partnership agreements with research institutes in Europe.
  • Collaborate with over 150 European Universities on research.
  • Employ 2,400 researchers and scientists in Europe.
  • Invest 15% of our global revenues into research each year and this level of investment is going to increase.

International collaboration is at the heart of the Huawei business model when it comes to our research activities.

Europe is home to 25% of all global R&D investment. A third of all scientific publications that are reviewed in the world today emanate from European researchers. Europe is home to the best scientists in the world. And this is why so much of Huawei investment on the research side is based in Europe.

Huawei has participated in 44 collaborative research projects under both FP7 and under Horizon 2020. We have engaged in research covering, for example, 5Gcloud and device technologies and the building of ICT platforms that will deliver the smart cities of the future. So Huawei has a strong embedded imprint on research in Europe, and this remain the case for many years to come. In fact, Huawei’s first research facility opened in Sweden in 2000.

The Huawei Research Center in Gothenburg

Horizon Europe – the next EU research, innovation and science instrument 2021-2027 will play a central role in delivering upon the policy agenda of the EU institutions. This includes strengthening the industrial strategies of the EU, delivering upon the EU Green deal and tackling the UN sustainability goals.

Huawei can positively support the implementation of this exciting new EU policy agenda.

The ‘nationalization’ or ‘de-compartmentalization’ of scientific and research activity – country by country – is not what the world needs today. The public, private, educational and governmental sectors  need to take an open approach to scientific engagement. This will ensure that the key global challenges facing the world today can be positively addressed for all of mankind.

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Samsung Display gets US licenses to supply some panels to Huawei

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Samsung Electronics’ display unit has received licenses from US authorities to continue supplying certain display panel products to Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday (27 October).

With US-China ties at their worst in decades, Washington has been pushing governments around the world to squeeze out Huawei, arguing that the telecom giant would hand data to the Chinese government for spying. Huawei denies it spies for China.

From 15 September, new curbs have barred US companies from supplying or serving Huawei.

Samsung Display, which counts Samsung Electronics and Apple as major customers for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display screens, declined comment.

Huawei was not immediately available for comment.

It is still unclear whether Samsung Display will be able to export its OLED panels to Huawei as other firms in the supply chain making components necessary to manufacture panels would also have to get U.S. licences.

Samsung’s cross-town rival LG Display said that it and other companies, including most semiconductor companies, need to get licences to resume business with Huawei.

Last month, Intel Corp said it had received licences from US authorities to continue supplying certain products to Huawei.

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Despite talk of digital sovereignty, Europe sleepwalks into Chinese dominance on drones

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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.

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European Union and West urged to take action against Chinese 'genocide' of Uyghurs

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The international community has been urged to respond to the “genocide” being perpetrated by the Chinese regime against the country’s Uyghurs and take “concrete action”.

An event in Brussels was told that up to 3 million Uyghurs are held in Nazi-style “concentration camps” with “insidious” pressure also being applied on those who try to champion the rights of the Uyghur community in China.

Many companies still do business with China and pretend the reported horrors against Uyghurs “is not happening” and Beijing is “not held accountable” for its actions.

Branding the current situation as a “genocide”, Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur activist, even drew a comparison with the Holocaust in WW2, saying, “history is repeating itself”.

In a passionate plea, she said: “China must be held accountable for these unspeakable crimes. If we don’t it will affect all our futures.”

Abbas was speaking at a virtual debate on the issue on 13 October, organized by The European Foundation for Democracy, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy to Belgium and the US Mission to the EU.

New evidence of China’s persecution of the Uyghurs, its 12 million strong “minority” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, continues to emerge with reports of torture, forced labour, coercive family planning (including forced abortion and forced sterilization), sexual assault, and attempts to “Sinicise” the exercise of the Islamic faith.

China’s repressive policies and so-called “re-education centres” are described as being like ethnic cleansing and gross violations of human rights targeting its own Muslim population.

Rushan Abbas, founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs, began with a quote from a Holocaust survivor, adding, “here we are in the modern age and the most brutal side of human nature is manifesting itself again. You would hope the world would learn from its mistakes but the international community is failing its own conscious.

“The world, after WW2, said ‘never again’ but again a regime is  waging a war on freedom of speech and religion. The Chinese call the Uyghur religion a  disease and say they don’t have human rights and what is happening is a dangerous ideology that will spread with even more people being brutalized.”

“There are 3 million Uyghurs in concentration camps, with crematoria attached. My own sister, a retired doctor who was abducted from her home, is among them.  Artists, intellectuals and successful businessmen are included.  More than two years later I still do not know if she is still alive. Where is my sister? Where are our loved ones?  Will no one call out the Chinese regime?”

She added: “The world continues to buy the Chinese narrative on this genocide. At first China denied the camps existed then, when they had to accept they did, they called them “schools,” and said the world should not interfere.

“But it is not China’s internal issue and the world must intervene.The West is complicit in massed rape, forced marriage and abortion, sterialisation, child abduction and organ harvesting and conducting genocide against Uyghurs. These crimes by a barbaric regime against humanity must be addressed. China’s blood money has won the compliance of the UN and the international community which has failed to stand up to China and its money.”

She suggested that ordinary people can take proactive action by speaking with their local mayors and politicians along with grassroots organizations. They should, she argued, also boycott Chinese products “made from slave labour”.

The coronavirus crisis has brought further suffering as they have been “denied treatment and locked in their homes without food”.

Vanessa Frangville, director of the Research Center for East Asian Studies, ULB, told the meeting: “We know that China resorts to all sorts of strategies to attack academics who speak out including being condemned to life sentences and this is happening to Uyghur academics.

"There are several who have vanished or sentenced to death and that includes Uyghurs living outside China in countries like Turkey.

“The regime also pressurizes scholars who work on the Uyghur situation which forces them to stop their work because they are worried. For example, my university published a public motion to support Uyghurs and the ULB president got an angry letter from the Chinese embassy who sent representatives to meet him and to demand that he remove the motion and my articles from the ULB website. They warned that further collaboration with our Chinese partners could be impacted if we refused.

“They also asked for information on Chinese students at ULB. This is typical of the intimidation by the Chinese. If you complain about such pressure they just mention ‘China bashing.’ Increasingly, this is typical of our situation as scholars who work on the Uyghur crisis. We have to be aware of these sort of insidious things and should not accept it.”

She admitted some universities still work closely with China because they fear that a collapse in collaboration, angry letters or even threats against colleagues in China.

She said: “You try not to let it affect your work but at some point you have to make a choice between speaking out or not. The same goes for the EU. If, for example, Spain or France speaks out and is not backed up by other member states it will be isolated. This is another Chinese tactic.”

On what action might be taken she cited the example of France where she said 56 national MPs had been “mobilised” to support Uyghurs, saying “this is important”.

“China is leading a misinformation campaign and it is important for people to distance themselves from this.”

 

Further comment came from Ilhan Kyuchyuk, an MEP and Vice President of the ALDE Party, who said, “We have seen enough of what is going on in the region and things are getting worse.”

 

The deputy, who has worked on the issue for some time and helped draft a parliamentary resolution last year on the Uyghur situation, added, “Europe is not united or consistent. We have to move this matter to the centre of EU debate. I know it is not easy to deal with China but we have to be more vocal and strengthen cooperation on this. Let us support the voice of voiceless people. Europe needs to act on this.”

He said the Uyghur issue was addressed at a recent EU/china summit but said: “Much needs to be done as the situation is deteriorating.”

“The dialogue has not resulted in any meaningful change by the Chinese. It is obvious the EU must act to protect the fundamental rights of the Uyghurs. We must speak out against this unacceptable repression against minorities for ethnic and religious reasons.”

In a Q and A session, he said: "The EU is much more aware of this issue compared with four or five years ago when they did not talk about the Uyghurs. There are no easy answers in how to deal with this though but the EU must get rid of the unanimity rule which requires member state agreement on acting against authoritarian regimes. The problem is at member state (council) level which must come up with a common approach when it comes to China.”

He added: “I am not saying we should sit and wait but to counter this problem you need a strategy and a holistic approach. It is easy for a great power like China to buy a member state. We will get nowhere if we deal with this persecution against the Uyghur minority and China’s counter narrative at member state level alone and that is why we need a European strategy.

He also suggested an EU version of the Magnitsky Act might be useful in its dealings with China.

This is a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

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