The Washington increase coincides with a House Intelligence Committee inquiry into Chinese phone-equipment makers, including Huawei and ZTE. The panel, which announced the probe in November, is looking at whether the companies’ presence in the United States provides opportunities for Chinese espionage and imperils America’s telecommunications infrastructure.
“If cases of cyber espionage are identified or uncovered, that would stymie their business in the United States and have implications for trying to expand in other countries,’’ said Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute and a former special assistant to President George W. Bush for homeland security.
Huawei’s business activities in the United States have drawn scrutiny over questions about whether the company has ties to China’s military, which Huawei has denied. The company had about $1.3 billion in U.S. revenue last year, up from $760 million in 2010, said William Plummer, a U.S.-based spokesman for Huawei of Shenzhen, China.
Huawei is seeking to “clarify the facts about the company and undo misperceptions, and we’ve resourced ourselves accordingly,’’ Plummer said. “In terms of the investigation, we’ve been engaged in an open and cooperative dialogue and exchange of information for almost nine months, and look forward to further cooperating with the committee.’’
Huawei has hired six lobbying firms since November. The outside lobbyists include Doyce Boesch, a former Senate aide and veteran of two Republican presidential campaigns; and William Black, former chief of staff to the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.
In March, Huawei registered its first in-house employee lobbyists, including three former congressional aides. The company last month hired Donald Purdy as chief security officer for its U.S. operation. Purdy came from Computer Sciences Corp., a U.S. government technology contractor based in Falls Church.
Ren Zhengfei founded Huawei in 1987 after leaving the Chinese military, a background that has prompted congressional questions about continuing government ties.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, sent Huawei and ZTE letters on June 12, asking for details about their contacts with and funding from Chinese government entities and their U.S. business.
Staff representatives from the committee met with Huawei officials in Shenzhen on Feb. 23, and committee members met with Huawei officials on May 23 in Hong Kong, according to the letters.