The current coronavirus crisis originated in China and has become – quite naturally – the only issue about which most of us care. But there are other China related issues that affect our future, and the overarching crisis should not allow other issues to slip under the wire unchallenged. The most important of which, as far as the UK is concerned, is Huawei, as the following implies:
Huawei’s access to the UK’s 5G network is a political matter – one the UK government shouldn’t underestimate.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson allowed Huawei to be part of the country’s 5G network, although setting a strict cap of 35% on market share. The decision triggered criticism among Tories, as it was taken whilst ignoring US warnings of alleged links between Huawei’s administration and the Chinese Military. UK citizens may be wondering whether the country should use Huawei’s technology to improve high-speed internet. The answer is no.
Without detracting from Huawei’s technological capacity, it does not seem in the UK’s strategic interests to increase the involvement of the Chinese company in its 5G rollout. Aside from the alleged relationship between Huawei’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, and the People’s Liberation Army, the reason that should keep Johnson from letting the company free access to the country’s 5G network is the USA.
The race to dominate tech and the cyberspace is part of the trade war between China and the US – a solution to which is nowhere near in sight. Choosing a partner to implement 5G broadband nationwide is thus a matter of picking sides: regardless of the deepening of China-UK relations, the US is still the island’s first trading partner – whereas China ranks fifth – and the US is a traditional political and military ally.
Americans, who are now in a phase of retraction from world economy under Trump’s leadership, might further hold back from engaging economically with partners they don’t consider trustworthy: if that is the case, fast-speed downloads and uploads allowed by Huawei’s 5G coverage might be more expensive than the UK can afford.