The Chinese technology company Huawei is a challenge to US national security and has engaged in “practices that are not acceptable in national security,” according to Google’s former boss Eric Schmidt, who now chairs the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board, in a BBC interview.

China-based Huawei is one of the world’s leading telecoms network and top smartphone manufacturers, but has attracted controversy since Beijing passed a 2017 law that makes it compulsory for Chinese governments to assist the government in matters of national security – prompting fears that Beijing could use Huawei’s 5G technology infrastructure to spy on other nations.

“There’s no question that Huawei has engaged in some practices that are not acceptable in national security,” Schmidt told a BBC Radio 4 documentary.

“There’s no question that information from Huawei routers has ultimately ended up in hands that would appear to be the state. However that happened, we’re sure it happened,” Schmidt added.

Huawei denied Schmidt’s allegations.

“The allegations made by Eric Schmidt, who now works for the US government, are simply not true and as with similar assertions in the past, are not backed by evidence,” Victor Zhang, Huawei’s UK chief told the BBC.

“Huawei is independent from any government, including the Chinese government,” added Zhang.

US needs to build its own technology

Rather than rely on Huawei technology, Schmidt instead advocated for the US to build its own competitor.

Schmidt also suggested that China’s ability to compete and innovate had been underestimated over the years, and that Chinese technology is now only a “few” years behind the US.

“I would say they are a few years behind,” he told the BBC.

“Not five years, and not 10 years. And there’s evidence of China closing the gap in the next few years.

“So the question is: what happens then? Well obviously, artificial intelligence has military and national security applications,” he added.