Or would that delay the rollout of 5G without fixing the security risk?by Isabel Hilton / January 23, 2020 / Leave a comment
As 75-year-old Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, prepared for the annual Davos rituals, his daughter Meng Wanzhou, her ankle tagged, was heading for court in Toronto. The hearings are expected to be lengthy and will determine whether she will be extradited to the United States to face charges of breaking US sanctions against Iran.
Since Meng’s arrest just over a year ago, the US government has banned American firms from doing business with Huawei, and US officials have fanned out to pressure governments to ban Huawei equipment from their next-generation 5G networks. In response, the company protests its innocence of any intent to serve the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, and Chinese officials have matched the US threats with their own. Two Canadian citizens have been detained in China.
A US team visited London in the second week of January, bearing a dossier that, it said, contained damaging information on the company. The US ambassador to Germany made it clear that the EU’s most important US ally was expected to fall in line. The Chinese ambassador responded with threats against the German car industry. Squeezed between two giants, Angela Merkel seems inclined to defer the Huawei decision until after the next EU summit in March.
Safety in EU numbers is not available to the UK and Boris Johnson will encounter some harsh realities: Britain is going it alone as the world’s biggest and second biggest economies are fighting for supremacy. If he decides for Huawei, the US could downgrade security cooperation and trade talks could sour. If he decides against Huawei, China will find equally creative ways to demonstrate its displeasure. There are no easy choices here.
The UK’s intelligence services have been giving contradictory signals: some officials warn that Huawei is bound to do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party now or in the future, and the Party’s interests are not aligned with those of the UK. Others share the misgivings about China and do not consider Huawei a trusted supplier, but disagree over how to translate those security concerns into the technological choices the UK has to make.
They further argue that the security of telecoms infrastructure requires a choice of interoperable suppliers. Given that only three manufacturers are available to…