Wellington: Huawei has launched a rugby-themed media campaign in a bid to win over New Zealand's public after the country's security agency blocked the Chinese technology giant's gear from being used in a nationwide internet network.
The Huawei advertisement seen in New Zealand.
"5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand," full-page ads in New Zealand's two largest newspapers read (below a photo of players contesting a ball) on Wednesday, accompanied by large billboards also appealing to the country's love of the sport.
In November, New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB) told telco Spark it couldn't use proposed gear from Huawei – the world's largest telecom equipment company – in the rollout of its 5G network because an unspecified "significant network security risk was identified".
Spark is now in the process of seeing if it can make changes to mitigate those risks, although authorities have declined to publicly say how that would happen.
Huawei's newspaper ad goes on to argue the decision would mean less advanced technology and possibly higher prices for New Zealand customers.
The ads come after the company last month publicly offered to only use New Zealand, rather than Chinese, staff to build the network – in a bid to ease fears – and called for an urgent meeting with the government, denying there had been any wrongdoing or that it posed a threat.
Western spy agencies have increasingly raised security concerns about Huawei – China's largest telecommunications company – over what they say are possible links to the Chinese government, with the United States reportedly pressing Five Eyes intelligence network allies to avoid the company.
The company has repeatedly denied claims.
Australia was one of the first countries to ban Huawei from a rollout of 5G networks.
New Zealand's top politicians have repeatedly denied the GCSB decision was influenced by other Western powers and say it's about the particular technology being proposed, not China.
They have also denied suggestions New Zealand's diplomatic ties with China have been frayed over the decision, with the official launch of a major joint China- New Zealand tourism project now postponed.
Otago University international relations professor Robert Patman told Radio NZ the case illustrated the stark political differences between China and New Zealand.
"If a New Zealand company had a decision against it from Chinese authorities it would not be able to launch a similar marketing ad in China," he said.
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