Some of the country's most prominent news organizations have partnership deals with telecom giant Huawei, which the U.S. government considers a national security risk because of links to the Chinese government.
The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Reuters, and Politico have all published news-style pieces commissioned by the Chinese telecom giant to advance its interests, according to a Washington Free Beacon review. Since July, Reuters has published two sponsored articles touting Huawei's investments in the United Kingdom. The Journal has published 14 sponsored articles since last year, while Wired has hosted virtual events sponsored by the tech giant. Politico ran pro-Huawei content last year. The articles disclose that Huawei sponsors the content, though the company's ties to the Chinese government may not be apparent to readers.
Huawei has come under fire for its cozy relationship with Beijing. Critics of Huawei, whose founder is an avowed member of the Chinese Communist Party, say the company's links to the Chinese government pose risks to dissenters in China and could help the regime spy on foreign adversaries. The Trump administration put Huawei on an economic blacklist over those concerns, and the Biden administration has maintained the policy. Huawei has spent millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying to beat back the sanctions and to rehabilitate its image. The company has paid Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta $500,000 since August to lobby the White House, according to lobbying disclosures.
Media companies that partner with Huawei and other Chinese entities have drawn scrutiny in recent years as Beijing has mounted an aggressive foreign propaganda campaign. The Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post all ended partnerships with China Daily last year, citing concerns about working with state-run media outlets. The National Association of Black Journalists last year canceled an online event to discuss misinformation regarding coronavirus after backlash over Huawei's sponsorship.
Huawei has sponsored events through Wired's "Brand Lab," which offers the magazine's clients "the chance to connect your brand to the Wired world." Huawei sponsored a conversation with Brookings Institution fellow Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, whose think tank has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Huawei. That funding from Huawei has bought friendly write-ups of Huawei projects. The Brand Lab also has created friendly, unsigned opinion pieces on behalf of Huawei. In one, Wired argues that although "computer chips make the digital world go round," the United States risks "decoupling supply chains" and "dramatically impacting the bottom lines of businesses." The piece blames the United States for pressuring Huawei and makes no reference to national security concerns.
The Journal has churned out 14 articles since August 2020 as part of the Huawei sponsorship. The articles, which the Journal posts to one of the company's Twitter accounts, feature headlines like "Why AI Needs More Women," "Conservation Through Connectivity," and "Creating a Culture of Trust." The material offers a positive view of technology companies and 5G technology, with some of the articles portraying Huawei as a force for social good. A sponsored article promoted in August says that Huawei technology can bring an end to so-called digital deserts by "promoting digital inclusion and connecting the disconnected around the world." The article also quotes Afke Schaart, a former Dutch lawmaker who serves as Huawei's senior vice president for global government affairs.
Reuters's content is directed at the United Kingdom, which has banned Huawei's equipment from being used on its high-speed wireless infrastructure. One article claimed that Huawei's 5G will drive economic recovery for small- and medium-sized businesses. A Reuters piece published this month touted Huawei's commitment to the conservation movement. The article quoted a Huawei executive saying that the company's technology would "help protect the planet" and that Huawei is "committed to supporting conservation projects in many ecosystems, including oceans, rainforests, and mountains."
A spokesman for the Journal declined to comment for this story. Reuters and Wired did not respond to requests for comment. Huawei also did not respond to emails seeking comment.