As word broke Friday that a Chinese citizen named Weijing Wang had been arrested in Poland for spying, it’s likely few people in the United States even heard about it, much less realized the arrest may be closely monitored by conservative political operatives stateside, and possibly even have implications for the average person living in America.
Wang, Polish state police reported after searching his home and detaining him (which could last as long as three months with a conviction going as long as 10 years), is the sales director in Poland for Chinese telecommunications company Huawei. And Huawei has featured heavily in an obscure lawsuit that opened the first week of January in California between U.S.-based Qualcomm, a telecom company on the cutting edge of the next iteration of smartphone wireless known as 5G, and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Huawei, as CNN reports, is one of the foremost telecom companies in China, selling more phones than Apple, with an interest in branching out into a larger, global market. So far, the U.S. has rebuffed Huawei’s advances, considering them a threat to national security.
Huawei is a Chinese telecommunications company that is viewed by US government officials as a national security risk. Other countries have concerns too: It has been prevented from supplying next-generation 5G equipment to Australia and New Zealand.
The company has attracted even greater scrutiny following the arrest of its chief financial officer last month in Canada.
CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is the daughter of Huawei's founder, was arrested in Canada in December. She has been released on bail, but faces a lengthy legal fight over extradition to the United States.
The US government alleges that Meng helped the company dodge sanctions on Iran. Huawei has repeatedly said it's unaware of any wrongdoing by Meng.
Oddly, Huawei, once a customer of Qualcomm, was one of the star witnesses for the FTC in their suit against Qualcomm which alleges that the U.S. company is threatening to withhold chips to customers unless they pay unreasonably high licensing fees.
The lawsuit was filed by the FTC in the waning days of the Obama administration, leading some conservative observers to wonder if the case itself is a holdover from that administration’s agenda. Worse, some watchers wonder if the lawsuit is intentionally favoring Chinese interests at the expense of the U.S.
The FTC’s argument that Qualcomm is allegedly harming competition, however, has frustrated some conservatives, who say not only does it appear the independent agency is favoring Chinese interests over American businesses, but the FTC’s case goes against the ideas of free-market capitalism.
“From an economic standpoint, we need to oppose the Marxist-based, mercantile politics and allow free markets to win,” Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, told Fox News. “But this whole case against Qualcomm is actually against free-market capitalism.”
Economic factors aside, the arrest of Wang is, in fact, something those who understand the power of 5G have expressed concern about: that the technology will be used as an espionage tool by Beijing.
Conservative allies of President Donald Trump, who has taken a vocal and hardline stance against China’s approach to intellectual property, and who finds himself in a public showdown with Congressional Democrats over border wall funding, are reportedly trying to send the message that the federal agency’s lawsuit against an American business has implications that reverberate globally.