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The History Of Tech Giant Huawei And The Chinese Government

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The arrest of a Chinese tech executive adds to her company's contentious relationship with the U.S. Meng Wanzhou is chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of the founder. She was arrested in Canada on a U.S. extradition request. NPR's Jasmine Garsd reports on the history of the company.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Ren Zhengfei is a former People's Liberation Army officer who founded the telecommunications company in 1987. Since then, the company has grown into a worldwide juggernaut. It expects to ring up more than $100 billion in sales this year. Sarah Cook is a senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House, a democracy watchdog organization.

SARAH COOK: Chinese technology companies generally, and particularly these tech giants - their success or failure isn't accidental. It's really contingent upon government support.

GARSD: Those ties between Huawei's founder and the Chinese government have raised questions about potential espionage dangers for the U.S., which Huawei has repeatedly denied. But Cook says the concerns are hardly outlandish.

COOK: It's hard to imagine that a company like Huawei would not provide information to Chinese intelligence agencies if it was requested. It's hard to imagine that they would have a choice, even.

GARSD: Earlier this year, U.S. intelligence agencies warned American citizens against using products and services made by Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE. Around the same time, AT&T backed out of selling Huawei's smartphones. The U.S. government isn't alone in its concern about Huawei and Chinese espionage. Australia has banned Huawei for the next generation of cellphone networks. In addition to espionage concerns, Huawei has been suspected of shipping products to Iran despite American sanctions. And that's reportedly why Meng Wanzhou was arrested earlier this week, although the charges have not been publicly disclosed. The Chinese government has demanded she be released. Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.