Will the UK ban Huawei from its 5G network?
Crucial Decision on Huawei to be Made in UK as Pressure from US Intensifies
In a final effort to dissuade the UK from using Huawei equipment to upgrade its telecommunications network, Washington has threatened to stop intelligence and data sharing if Britain decides to use Huawei products.
The UK is likely to make a final decision, at the end of this month, as to whether it will adopt equipment made by the Chinese telecommunications company to upgrade its 5G networks. The US has warned that telecoms equipment made by Huawei could be used as a way of monitoring and spying on intelligence and data, increasing the risk of data breaches and intelligence property theft. The US claims that Huawei has strong ties with the Chinese government and therefore poses a real risk to the national security of any country that uses Huawei equipment to launch the 5G telecoms network. Huawei has continued to reject this allegation.
Is Huawei connected to the Chinese government?
According to a Q&A page on the Huawei site: “Huawei is a private company, owned solely by our employees. No third parties hold any shares in the company, and that includes the Chinese government.”
“We are a global company that works openly and transparently with the governments of 170 countries where we do business. We have commercial agreements in place with these governments, and this includes China. We sell civil communication products to the Chinese government, and that is the extent of the relationship.”
Dominic Raab, the UK’s Foreign Secretary and Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State are expected to meet in Washington on Thursday the 9th of January to discuss the matter.
In December 2019, Washington passed a bill that allows it to cut or limit intelligence-sharing with any nation that adopts Huawei equipment. Britain has become a main focal point in the ongoing dispute over Huawei and the potential threat it carries with it.
A revision of the US 2020 defense spending law, approved by the US President, Donald Trump, last month, encourages intelligence agencies to consider the integrity of their national security when deciding on whether to enter into an intelligence-sharing relationship with countries such as Russia and China.
The legislative provision, supplemented by the Republican Senator Tom Cotton, targets the intelligence-sharing alliance, known as the Five Eyes, which includes the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The Ambassador of China to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, published an article in The Sunday Telegraph entitled Banning Huawei would leave Britain trailing behind on technology. The article addresses three areas of common concern: how safe is Huawei? How has Huawei contributed to UK-China relations? What impact would banning Huawei have on Britain?
Let us first consider the first question; how safe is Huawei? Ambassador Xiaoming claims that Huawei supplies network services to billions of users in more than 150 nations worldwide and none of those countries have any hard evidence of wrongdoing that would point towards Huawei as posing a threat to national security. Furthermore, Huawei has announced that it is willing to implement a ‘no-back door’ agreement, which would include monitoring and security tests from third party organizations.
Huawei has also set up a cybersecurity evaluation center in the UK since 2010, without subsidies from a secondary source. The UK’s Chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, Norman Lamb, said:
“Following my Committee’s recent evidence session, we have concluded that there are no technical grounds for excluding Huawei entirely from the UK’s 5G or other telecommunications networks.”
“The benefits of 5G are clear and the removal of Huawei from the current or future networks could cause significant delays.”
“However, as outlined in the letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we feel there may well be geopolitical or ethical considerations that the Government need to take into account when deciding whether they should use Huawei’s equipment.”
“The Government also needs to consider whether the use of Huawei’s technology would jeopardize this country’s ongoing co-operation with our major allies.”
How has Huawei contributed to the UK economy?
According to Ambassador Xiaoming, Huawei has been a key player in building both the telecommunications sector and the economy in Britain. ‘From 2012 to 2017, Huawei brought £2 billion to Britain through investment and procurement, and created 26,000 jobs. In early 2018, Huawei pledged to invest a further £3 billion in the UK over the next five years,’ said Mr. Xiaoming.
What impact would banning Huawei have on Britain?
On Wednesday 12th June 2019, during an interview on the BBC’s Newsnight, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said that preventing Huawei from developing the UK’s 5G telecoms network would raise red flags for other Chinese businesses and investors. “Chinese investment is booming in this country,” said Mr. Xiaoming. “Last year it grew by 14pc. But if you shut the door on Huawei you will send a very bad and negative message to other Chinese businesses.”
Huawei has been dragged to the middle of an ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies. In May 2019, Huawei was blacklisted by the US after the Trump administration deemed the Chinese telecommunications company a threat to US national security.
“As the third decade of the 21st century begins, China and the UK both stand at a new historical starting point. I hope that the British government’s decision on Huawei will stand the test of time, that it will demonstrate an adherence to open and inclusive cooperation and uphold the principles of fairness, justice and non-discrimination. Making the right choice will help foster sound conditions for deeper and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the UK and deliver more benefit to the peoples of our two countries,” concluded Ambassador Xiaoming.