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The Chinese tech giant, caught in the crossfire of a trade and technology battle between the United States and China, has quietly given masks to a number of countries around the world. Huawei has been accused by at least one congressman of using donations to gain favors when it comes to participating in 5G.
Huawei is donating 6 million masks to Canada, along with other personal protective equipment, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported this week.
Huawei declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.
The company is seeking federal government approval to participate in the deployment of 5G in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said donations of masks would not influence the country’s decision on 5G.
“We don’t expect these donations to have an impact on our decisions. In fact, they will not affect our decisions on any issue, “said Trudeau in French, according to the Canadian publication Global News.
Meanwhile, Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is currently under extradition to Canada.
Washington calls Huawei a national security risk, saying its networking equipment could be used by the Chinese government for spying. The United States has tried to convince other countries to ban Huawei from 5G – advanced mobile networks that promise superfast data speeds and are believed to be the backbone of the next generation of infrastructure.
Despite U.S. efforts, countries like the UK have started to roll out Huawei devices or plan to do so. Others, including Australia and Japan, have advanced on 5G without Huawei, while others decide which way to go.
The telecommunications equipment maker has donated hundreds of thousands of face masks to Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, as well as 12,000 to Poland, Politico reported last month.
Last weekend, Republican representative Mark Green said in an interview with Fox News – without citing sources – that French President Emmanuel Macron asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for a billion masks. Green also alleged that Xi had told Macron that China would send the masks to France if it used Huawei in its 5G infrastructure.
It is not known if Huawei has actually donated masks to France. A Huawei spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the matter. But following Green’s claims, the French Embassy in the United States denied that Xi and Macron ever discussed the subject of masks and 5G.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also responded, saying that Tennessee lawmaker’s words prove that “some people in the United States are using lies and misinformation to sabotage international cooperation against the pandemic “
“It would be extremely naive to think that these efforts were totally altruistic,” Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), told CNBC. “Inevitably, these big Chinese companies – like big companies in any other country – would align these largesse with their own business goals. “
Ryan of ASPI reported that Huawei could use a boost in the Netherlands, where Huawei has also donated masks. The country is expected to hold a 5G auction in June. No decision has yet been made on the company’s participation in the Netherlands’s 5G infrastructure.
In Poland, Ryan said Huawei “no doubt hopes that its donations will help restore its image” after a sales manager was arrested for spying on behalf of China. The director was then dismissed. Huawei said at the time that the employee’s actions were “unrelated to the business.”
A high-level European politician has recognized that some donations can be made for political reasons.
“We must be aware that there is a geopolitical component, including a struggle for influence through spinning and the” policy of generosity “. Armed with facts, we must defend Europe from its detractors, “Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, said in a recent blog.
Donations to New York
Huawei has also donated masks and other equipment to New York, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, even though Huawei is effectively banned in the United States.
Huawei is not the only leading Chinese technology company to donate personal protective equipment. The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation have donated more than 7 million masks to nearly two dozen Asian countries, as well as hundreds of thousands of coronavirus test kits and pieces of protective equipment.
Anton Malkin, a researcher at the Center for International Governance Innovation’s think tank, said that the fact that many companies donate masks shows that it’s not political.
“Many companies donate masks, so I don’t think we can find out much about the political aspects of what Huawei is doing. In fact, they are masking countries that have banned their technology, “said Malkin. “Huawei is a company that has been under the microscope for years. Whether or not they donate masks would make the news. “