MIT Cancels Huawei, ZTE Research Projects

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One of the world’s top universities cuts its research ties with Huawei and ZTE, due to federal investigations

Chinese networking giant Huawei Technologies is once again in the spotlight after Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said it would end all partnerships with it.

MIT said that its collaborations with Huawei (and indeed ZTE) are being terminated due to the US federal investigations of Huawei for alleged sanction busting with Iran.

Huawei is currently pleading not guilty to US indictments that it broke internationals sanctions against Iran and carried out bank and wire fraud.

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MIT cancellations

Huawei meanwhile is suing the US government over a ban on the use of its telecoms products, in efforts to push back against what it says are baseless US allegations against the firm.

Huawei, along with its CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in early December by Canadian authorities, deny all the US indictments that they broke internationals sanctions against Iran and carried out bank and wire fraud.

But the federal investigations have resulted in one of the world’s top universities cutting its ties, due to the ‘elevated-risk’.

In a letter on its website, Richard Lester, associate provost, and Maria Zuber, VP of research, also said they are placing extra scrutiny (i.e. additional faculty and administrative review) on collaboration proposals from China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“MIT faculty naturally and enthusiastically seek out international projects and collaborators,” wrote Lester and Zuber. “Given the increase in quantity and scope of global collaborations, in fall 2017 we launched an effort to strengthen our internal process for evaluating and structuring proposed international engagements.”

“Most recently we have determined that engagements with certain countries – currently China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – merit additional faculty and administrative review beyond the usual evaluations that all international projects receive,” they wrote.

“At this time, based on this enhanced review, MIT is not accepting new engagements or renewing existing ones with Huawei and ZTE or their respective subsidiaries due to federal investigations regarding violations of sanction restrictions,” wrote Lester and Zuber. “The Institute will revisit collaborations with these entities as circumstances dictate.”

MIT joins a number of other universities in both the US, UK and Australia (including Oxford and Stanford) in halting any funding from Huawei

There is speculation in some media reports that MIT has allegedly bowed to pressure from the US government, as MIT gains a lot of funding (mostly from the Pentagon) from the US government.

US pressure

The pressure of the US government should not be underestimated. Last year for example, ZTE almost went out of business due to a US ban.

The US imposed a ban on ZTE in April 2018 in response to ZTE’s alleged failure to discipline executives who had colluded to evade US sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The ban would effectively have put ZTE, one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment makers, out of business, since it is heavily dependent upon parts obtained from the US.

But in July the ban was lifted after US president Donald Trump personally intervened, saying he wanted to protect Chinese jobs and also arguing that ZTE is a major buyer of US components.

ZTE was also forced to pay $1.4 billion in penalties.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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