In a discussion with the Wall Street Journal, Cisco CEO John Chambers identified his company's biggest competitor: Huawei. Piling on to concerns that have already been expressed — and acted on — by the US government, Australian government, and even Symantec, Chambers said Huawei was a company that doesn't "always play by the rules, but you have to adjust to the markets that you're in." Huawei's image has been increasingly under fire of late, and Chamber's suggestion that both customers and governments "know who who they can trust and where there are challenges" looks like he's taking an opportunity to capitalize on concerns that Huawei can't be trusted when it comes to respecting intellectual property rights.

However, Chambers was careful not to paint all of China with the same broad brush — something that wouldn't help his company's prospects in the country. That's a fine line to walk — because although it might be easy to say that Huawei plays fast and loose with intellectual property, the discussion also bordered on general security issues — and Huawei's close ties with the Chinese government are precisely what has given many other governments cold feet about working with them on networking equipment. Chambers didn't directly address that issue, but did suggest that there is doubt about Huawei's "security issues" in a general way.

Huawei's response, as the WSJ reports, was to emphasize that it does have "a strong history of respect for the intellectual property rights of others" and labelled Chamber's comments "unfortunate." Unfortunate or not, the bottom line is that there is a lot of distrust for Huawei amongst governments and large corporations right now, and Cisco is more than willing to take advantage of that.