New Delhi: Controversial Chinese tech giant Huawei is conducting a ‘reputation survey’ in India to gauge people’s opinions about the company amid global concerns over its links to Beijing and impact on national security.
Huawei, which until early this year was ahead in the 5G race, has been hit by geopolitical tensions across the world. In the US, the company is facing sanctions and can’t access commercially available American technology such as microchips.
The US’s actions have led to countries in Europe sidelining the company. The UK has decided to ban all Huawei equipment from its 5G networks by end-2027. Canada is considering a ban as well while the country is carries out an extradition hearing for Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.
In India too, Huawei has been struggling. As tensions with Beijing escalated over the military standoff in Ladakh, New Delhi sought to restrict operations of Chinese companies in the country.
In August, the government drew up a list of Chinese apps it had banned, adding to it over the months. Currently, over 200 of them are banned. Then, on 16 December, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was drawing up a list of “trusted sources” of telecom equipment for service providers to procure from.
Prasad added that a second list specifying which sources were off limits might be drawn up too.
The announcement is seen as India’s attempt to keep out Chinese telecom equipment vendors — Huawei is a prominent one among them.
The government was also undecided on whether to allow Huawei in its 5G trials or not, but eventually allowed it.
For its part, Huawei has long rejected accusations that its technology can be used to spy on foreign nations or companies.
The ‘reputation’ survey email, which ThePrint received on 11 December, is aimed at understanding the “challenges and opportunities of operating and investing in your country”, according to Market Xcel Data Matrix Pvt. Ltd., a Delhi-based market research agency that is carrying out the exercise.
ThePrint sent queries via email to Huawei about the survey but had not received a response till the time of publishing this report.
Speaking to ThePrint Thursday, Prasenjit Saha, an associate project director at Market Xcel Data Matrix Pvt. Ltd, said Huawei had asked for the survey. However, the agency is yet to respond to further queries sent to it on email. This report will be updated when it does.
What the survey asks
Among other things, the survey attempts to gauge whether people believe Huawei follows local laws and what the company’s future is amid current geopolitical tensions, such as the ongoing US and China spat and the eight-months-long military standoff between India and China in Ladakh.
It has 17 questions on a number of issues, including what a respondent thinks Huawei can do to improve its corporate image, whether the tech company is perceived as a private company and if it is seen as independent of the Chinese government.
One question asks: “Which of the following best describes how you react to Huawei?” and gives a range of responses to choose from — ‘criticize without being asked’, ‘criticize, if someone asked for my opinion’, ‘staying neutral’, ‘endorse, if someone asked for my opinion’, ‘speak highly, without being asked’, and ‘don’t know’.
Another question asks: “Which of the following best describes your overall perception of Huawei’s future, regarding current geopolitical situation?”
A respondent can choose to answer — ‘highly pessimistic’, ‘relatively pessimistic’, ‘neither pessimistic nor optimistic’, ‘relatively optimistic’, ‘highly optimistic’ or ‘N/A’.
Respondents are also asked to rank Huawei on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strongly agree).
The ranking also applies to other questions: “Is [Huawei] independent from the Chinese government” and “Is [it] a private company”.
Other issues respondents are quizzed on are if Huawei upholds high standards for cybersecurity, respects intellectual property rights, and is open and transparent.
The survey further checks to see if Huawei is seen as helping to “fulfil the government’s digital plan”, is considered a “reliable industry partner”, and “complies with local laws, regulations and social norms”.
There were a few subjective questions as well which gave respondents to write their own answers. This included suggestions on what Huawei could do to improve its corporate image in a specific country.
Market Xcel Data Matrix, established in 2000, is an independent research agency that has two Japan-based investors and conducted research projects in countries other than India, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.