It was the kind of scene that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will point to often as he rolls out his presidential campaign: a ribbon-cutting ceremony just outside Dallas, launching a corporate headquarters, with hundreds of new jobs, and validating what he calls his “Texas miracle” of growth.
After a months-long courtship that included a trip to China, where he dined with the company’s chief executive, Perry announced that telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies would base its U.S. operations in Plano. In a video of that October 2010 event — now playing on YouTube, courtesy of the governor’s office — Perry praised the company’s “really strong worldwide reputation” and its chairman, Ren Zhengfei, whose straight talk he said reminded him fondly of West Texans.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined the 2012 GOP race for president Saturday with an announcement sure to reverberate halfway across the country as his rivals competed in Iowa for the support of party activists.
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While Perry focused on Huawei’s ability to create jobs in a sluggish economy, national security experts in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations had concluded that the global telecom giant poses a potential cyber-security risk to the U.S. military and businesses. Three times since 2008, a U.S. government security panel has blocked Huawei from acquiring or partnering with U.S. companies because of concerns that secrets could be leaked to China’s government or military.
Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said that “if there are national security issues surrounding this company, they should be fully looked at.” He characterized Perry’s main involvement with Huawei as just “a ribbon-cutting for a company that was creating jobs here.”
As the Republican presidential campaign intensifies with Perry’s Saturday entry into the presidential race, trade with China and the sensitive issue of how to weigh U.S. economic interests against security concerns is emerging as a target of GOP politicians.
In last Thursday’s debate in Iowa, former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. pointed to China as a culprit in what he described as “the new war field” — cyber-intrusion as a way to steal corporate and government secrets. “Not only have government institutions been hacked into, but private individuals have been hacked, too. It’s gone beyond the pale,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman has said his experience in China gives him an understanding of its complex relationship with the United States. His own family business — the global chemical company Huntsman Corp. — had done business in China and saw its China-based revenue rise 57 percent during his tenure as ambassador there. Huntsman’s brother Peter, the company’s chief executive, told The Washington Post that the company avoided seeking embassy help while his brother was ambassador.
Front-runner Mitt Romney has vowed to “get tough” on trade with China and called the superpower one of the “worst offenders” of global trade rules, suggesting in an interview that the United States must clamp down on China’s use of pirated technologies.
Romney’s former investment company, Bain Capital, worked on behalf of at least two Chinese companies trying to acquire U.S. technology firms. One case involved Huawei, which Bain joined in its failed bid to buy the software firm 3Com. Romney left Bain Capital in 1999, and aides say he had no role in those deals.