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Top Exec Of Chinese Technology Giant, Huawei Arrested In Canada At Request Of U.S.

6 hours ago
Originally published on December 6, 2018 7:05 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For a moment there, it seemed as though the U.S. and China had reached a truce, some breathing room in the trade war and political tension between the two countries - 90 days to hammer out an agreement. Now maybe that could unravel.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That is because on Saturday, the same day that President Trump was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a top executive of the Chinese technology giant Huawei was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. officials. China is furious and is demanding her immediate release.

KELLY: Well, in a moment, we'll hear what this arrest means from the interview you've just done, Ailsa, with a China expert who has the president's ear. First, NPR's international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam joins me with more on the company itself.

Hey, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: The woman at the center of this - who is she?

NORTHAM: She is Meng Wanzhou. She's chief financial officer and deputy chairperson of Huawei. She's also the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, who is the founder of Huawei and a former member of China's People's Liberation Army. Meng Wanzhou is expected to face a bail hearing in Vancouver on Friday and possible extradition to the U.S.

KELLY: And on what charges? I mean, what exactly is she being charged with?

NORTHAM: That hasn't been made public yet. The company apparently has been under investigation by the Justice Department since April. But you know, arresting Meng Wanzhou is akin to arresting the second-most important executive at a company like, say, Apple. Huawei isn't just any tech company. It's the world's largest maker of telecom network equipment and the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones. So this is a big deal.

KELLY: Kind of like in the neighborhood, more or less, of taking Steve Jobs' daughter.

NORTHAM: Pretty much, yeah. That's right.

KELLY: OK. Well, what is the president or his administration saying? Have they made a comment in terms of what they say she did wrong or what the company, Huawei, did wrong?

NORTHAM: Till now, no, there's not been a statement from the administration. However, NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep interviewed national security adviser John Bolton earlier today, and he asked him about Huawei's dealings with Iran and whether that violated U.S. sanctions. Now, Bolton didn't answer that directly. And instead, he talked about the administration's concerns overall with Chinese tech firms. Let's have a listen.

JOHN BOLTON: We've had enormous concern for years about the practice of Chinese firms to use stolen American intellectual property, to engage in forced technology transfers and to be used, really, as arms of the Chinese government's objectives in terms of information technology in particular.

KELLY: And we'll hear that full interview with John Bolton tomorrow on Morning Edition. But did they get into, in that interview, into Huawei specifically and what U.S. concerns are?

NORTHAM: Yes, they did. Bolton mentioned Huawei specifically, indeed. And Mary Louise, here's their concern. Huawei is really one of the leaders in the international race to develop the next generation cellphone network, 5G, which not only means faster smartphones for you and me, but it's also the key to things like autonomous vehicles and robotics. China has been trying to buy up U.S. companies and otherwise gain American know-how into these cutting-edge technologies.

Now, the administration is trying to prevent China from having an edge in these technologies and, over the past few months, has been pushing back. It's making it more difficult for China to invest in U.S. tech companies and blocking some major sales. And the administration is also preventing U.S. companies from using Huawei equipment and trying to encourage other countries to stop using it as well.

KELLY: It's fascinating because if I'm hearing you right, this is the exact same issue. This takes us right to cybersecurity, to theft of intellectual property - the exact same issues the administration says it wants to address with China in this trade dispute.

NORTHAM: That's right. Those are the key issues. And it'll be interesting to see what happens now with those talks after this arrest.

KELLY: Exactly.

NORTHAM: And by the way, John Bolton also indicated to Steve Inskeep this morning that he knew about the arrest warrant during the dinner between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires last week. The White House came out later and said Trump did not know about the arrest or the request for extradition of Ms. Meng before that dinner

KELLY: NPR's Jackie Northam, thank you.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.