The Economist provided sympathetic coverage of a Chinese tech giant widely considered a national security risk without disclosing the publication’s lucrative business relationship with the firm that spanned nearly a decade.
Huawei Technologies commissioned the Economist‘s business consulting division to advance its policy agendas and deflect cybersecurity concerns raised by Western governments. The influential British magazine produced reports on a wide range of subjects—including a report on broadband access in the United Kingdom that Huawei credits to have influenced British policy. The publication has also run numerous Huawei advertisements, and its editors have cohosted several global forums with the company, helping the tech firm boost its public image as it faced growing scrutiny from the developed world for its close ties with the Chinese government.
The Economist defended Huawei in a front-page cover story in 2012—the year the publication’s consulting division started working with the company—that accused Western countries of using cybersecurity concerns as a pretense to oppose legitimate competition from Huawei. The publication’s coverage of the tech company has become less overtly pro-Huawei in recent years, but the Economist‘s coverage of the company is seen as friendly enough that Huawei’s PR division has cited several of the magazine’s articles to deflect criticism.
“The rise of a Chinese world-beater is stoking fears of cyber-espionage. Techno-nationalism is not the answer,” reads the 2012 piece’s headline.
Huawei nurtured a lucrative relationship with the Economist just as it faced growing concerns from Western countries that broadband networks built by the tech firm serve as a conduit for Chinese espionage. Such cybersecurity concerns have pushed the United States, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other U.S. allies to severely curtail or outright ban the company’s operations in their countries.