Chinese consumer electronics maker Huawei is raising lobbying concerns in Australia, having been identified as one of the top corporate sponsors of foreign travel for local politicians by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The think tank pointed to Huawei as the biggest sponsor of trips to its home country, with the report raising questions about the manner in which the Shenzhen, Guangdong-based original equipment manufacturer is trying to play a role in Australia's upcoming buildouts of the fifth generation of mobile networks. Since 2010, the Federal parliamentarians embarked on 63 corporate-funded trips to China, twelve of which had Huawei's corporate headquarters as their destination.
Some political actors in the country recently called for Huawei's local operations to be limited, describing the company as a national security threat, a sentiment that the United States government has been propagating for the better part of the current century. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull himself recently criticized China for attempting to interfere in Canberra's policies. Australia is also displeased with Huawei's other geopolitical ambitions in the region, having recently pressured the Solomon Islands into dropping Huawei's bid for its new Internet infrastructure out of fear it's losing influence with its neighbors.
As is the case in the U.S., some top Australian lawmakers and regulators believe Huawei is effectively controlled by China despite being privately owned and could be used by Beijing for spying and other nefarious purposes, provided it wasn't already leveraged in such a manner in the past. The Android original equipment manufacturer repeatedly dismissed those accusations as baseless, often reiterating it's owned by its employees. Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and former Trade Minister Andrew Robb previously embarked on Huawei-sponsored trips to China, according to ASPI's new report. Huawei is the world's largest manufacturer of telecom equipment and one of the companies that are expected to earn tens of billions of dollars from the incoming 5G revolution.