From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Huawei IT Project Bound for Albania, Should We Be Concerned?

Despite mounting global concerns around Huawei and the infiltration of Chinese-owned businesses into Western societies, the march of the tech giant continues.

Huawei has recently announced a new education programme that will take place in 16 CEE countries, including Albania. Entitled ‘One Thousand Dreams’, the programme will train 1000 IT talents, donate 1000 books to university libraries, and give 1000 toys to children’s hospitals in each of the chosen countries, over the next five years.

President of Huawei’s European Region, Li Jian said: “It is not enough to only have connectivity in the future digital world. Huawei wants to acquaint more people with the benefits of digital technologies, and enable them to access and use digital knowledge.”

He continued: “Children and young people are the hope of the future digital world. The One Thousand Dreams is a five-year social contribution programme. Through continuous investment, Huawei hopes to improve the digital skills of the youth in CEE countries, and encourage more young people to find a passion for science and willingness to explore it.”

Huawei is currently in the midst of a global row regarding espionage and privacy. In January, the Czech Republic banned them from a public tender procedure to build a tax portal for EUR 20 million. The Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency took the decision due to “security threats” posed by the telecoms supplier. This came at the same time as an employee in Poland was arrested on charges of espionage.

In addition to this, they are facing litigation in the US for intellectual property theft, stealing trade secrets, breaching sanctions against Iran, and fraud. Described as a “mortal danger” to open societies they face total or partial bans against the use of their products in a growing number of countries.

Even in the UK, top security officials warned that the company operated with impunity and that they had failed to fix the serious issues that had been identified, leaving civilian security compromised and vulnerable.

This combined with the ‘One Belt, One Road’ project which includes countless Chinese-led investments in infrastructure projects across the world, creates a worrying picture. The project includes airports, ports, roads, and energy projects and has been described as “debt trap diplomacy”. Furthermore, there has been evidence of the Chinese then interfering in the domestic policy of the countries that they work with.

Albania is included in this. Nënë Tereza Airport is under Chinese control, Geo-Jade took over Bankers Petroleum which now has the full rights to develop the Patos-Marinza oilfield, and the Kuçova Oilfield is controlled by a 100% Chinese interest.

Then on 25 March, international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported on an investigation into “China’s pursuit of a New World Media Order”. Through diplomatic interference, excessive spending on advertising, acquiring stakes in media houses, and various other tactics, the Chinese government are also setting their sights on the free press.

Giving examples of the Chinese government’s attempt to control information beyond its own borders, RSF described the situation as posing a “threat to press freedom throughout the world”.

Whilst on paper the Huawei programme seems like a good idea, one would have to question the motives behind the project. Why would an Asian communist regime be interested in investing in IT in countries on the fringes of the EU, bridging the geographical gap towards Russia?