Why it matters: The US government has fought a long battle against Huawei and ZTE, the effects of which are being felt across the country. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has just announced that it is cutting ties with both Chinese firms amid federal investigations and possible security concerns.
MIT isn’t the first university to end future research collaborations with Huawei and ZTE. The South China Morning Post reports that Stanford University, University of California’s flagship Berkeley, and the University of Minnesota have already terminated links with the companies, as has the UK’s prestigious Oxford University.
Writing on MIT’s website, Maria Zuber, vice-president for research, explained that as part of its new review process for ‘elevated-risk’ international proposals, “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.”
Additionally, the university has “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."
MIT said its process would pay special attention to risks related to intellectual property, export controls, data security, economic competitiveness, national security, and political, civil and human rights.
ZTE was banned from trading with US firms for seven years last April. The punishment was for breaking an agreement after it was caught selling US-made technology to Iran—a violation of US trade sanctions. The ban was lifted after ZTE paid a total of $1.4 billion in fines.
In August, President Trump signed the Defense Authorization Act, which prohibits US government agencies and contractors from using certain tech from ZTE, Huawei, and other Chinese companies.
The US has been asking its allies not to use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks over alleged security threats, threatening to withhold intel from those that do. The animosity reached a peak in December when Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada at the behest of the US.