In his LinkedIn profile, Huawei employee Winter Wright claims that he wrote the article on behalf of Negroponte. The latter's research center has received millions of dollars in research funding from the Chinese company.
The article reflects the years-long relationship between Huawei and Negroponte. This relationship has continued even after MIT cut ties with the Chinese company after a 13-count federal indictment.
For years, Negroponte has praised Huawei, defending it from criticism. In exchange, Huawei has funded the MIT Media Lab, the research institute founded by Negroponte in 1985.
In May of 2019, Negroponte wrote an op-ed for Fast Company where he argued that banning U.S. companies and universities from conducting business and research with Huawei would not make the country's communications networks safer.
"Don't ban Huawei," reads the op-ed published under Negroponte's name. "The U.S. should collaborate with leading technology companies and their research labs, rather than banning them."
Negroponte argued that a ban would create an "illusory sense of security that could actually increase risk." According to him, the real threat would be that the "unsubstantiated accusations" lobbied against Huawei would instead prevent the U.S from having "a more important, rational conversation" regarding cyber risk.
"This failure may prevent the U.S. from achieving the technological and economic progress it could have made, had it chosen to look more closely at the facts," he argued. He noted that this was particularly true at universities, such as MIT, which had to stop research with Huawei, who he called "the most advanced partner" that the university had in the telecommunications field.
Negroponte and Huawei's partnership serves as just one example of the extensive monetary ties that exist between U.S. colleges and China. In recent years, the latter's military-industrial complex has funneled millions of dollars into U.S. universities.
In addition, more than 100 American colleges and universities have, at one point, hosted a Confucius Institute. These are Mandarin programs, funded by the Chinese government, that have been subject to bipartisan criticism for being a threat to academic freedom on college campuses. (Related: The Economist failed to disclose lucrative Huawei ties, even as it defended the Chinese tech giant.)
Huawei's ties to MIT, on the other hand, go as far back as 2008. This was when a research group under Negroponte's MIT Media Lab listed the Chinese telecommunications company's U.S. subsidiary as an industry partner.
MIT Media later listed Huawei as a corporate sponsor between the 2012 and 2017 fiscal years. This gave Huawei extensive privileges, including access to all of the lab's research as well as "full intellectual property rights."
Meanwhile, the company's ties to Negroponte can be traced back to 2011. Negroponte gave a presentation at a Huawei-hosted MIT junket that praised China for building telecommunication infrastructure in Africa.
MIT officially suspended ties with Huawei in April of 2019, citing growing public concerns over its role in higher education in the U.S. But Negroponte continued to work with the company beyond that.
Negroponte has helped Huawei in the latter's public relations push against scrutiny by Western governments. In addition to the ghostwritten op-ed, he also joined Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei in denouncing as disingenuous the U.S. government's national security concerns in a round table in June 2019. Meanwhile, in May 2020, he also appeared in an online panel with Huawei rotating chairman Guo Ping.
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