"It's obvious that the Chinese are trying to acquire and/or upgrade such high-tech items as radar systems, flight control systems, air traffic control systems," and drones, says Richard Bitzinger, an expert on the Chinese military at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, in an e-mail. "The Chinese have a very obvious interest in trying to upgrade their military (which is still pretty backwards, overall) with systems like modern fighters, surface ships, and submarines. This means getting things like better radars, fire control and communications systems."
Huawei spokeswoman Ms. Luong said the company "does not do military equipment or technology nor do we discuss it with partners."
But others suggest that information-technology businesses in China are intertwined with the military. The industry "can be considered a hybrid defense industry, able to operate with success in commercial markets while meeting the demands of its military customers," according to a 2012 report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Last fall, a report by the House Select Committee on Intelligence declared Huawei to be a threat to US national security.
Experts also note that Huawei's research and development of new technologies have historically lagged. So Huawei has established many research partnerships, including several in the US that are focused on GaN technology. So it would be understandable for Huawei to consider a partnership with IME.
"Huawei has been behind the eight ball on R&D in recent years – it's been hard for them," says a Washington foreign-trade expert who requested anonymity so as not to burn bridges with the company. "They've really never been cutting edge, always following behind. Their equipment is good, no doubt. But it's just not there when it comes to R&D. So they have to depend on foreign partnerships and hope that they can get it right."