The United States has been pressuring its NATO partners for some time to abstain from buying 5G tech from Huawei amid concerns that the company could engage in espionage, something the company denies. The UK announced at the start of the year that it will allow Huawei to participate in its 5G rollout, but soon backtracked on its earlier decision.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that Britain’s decision to ban Huawei from national 5G rollout was about the “politicisation of commercial and technological issues” and not “national security”, as quoted by Reuters.
The Foreign Ministry representative also added that China strongly opposed the UK’s move in relation to Huawei, and assured that the country will take all necessary measures to protect its interests.
Earlier Reuters reported that China’s Foreign Ministry said that US President Trump’s comments on tech giant Huawei confirmed the fact that the latest ban on the company was not about “national security” but rather “political manipulation”, according to Reuters.
Donald Trump said on Tuesday night in relation to Boris Johnson’s recent crusade on Huawei: “We convinced many countries, many countries – and I did this myself for the most part – not to use Huawei because we think it’s an unsafe security risk, it’s a big security risk.”
British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced on 14 July that the United Kingdom will ban the purchase of 5G infrastructure from the Chinese tech giant starting from the end of 2020, arguing that the decision was about “the long-term security of our telecoms”.
Trump praised the UK’s “U-turn” on Huawei, however, his comments were later criticised by the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock as “claiming credit” for London’s assesment of risks associated with the company.
“We all know Donald Trump, don’t we? But I think this is a sensible decision,” Hancock said on Wednesday morning.
“All sorts of people can try to claim credit for the decision but this was based on a technical assessment by the National Cyber Security Centre about how we can have the highest quality 5G systems in the future,” he then clarified.
China and Huawei Respond to UK’s Move
The UK’s decision was met with dissapointment by the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming:
“Disappointing and wrong decision by the UK on Huawei. It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries”, the ambassador wrote on Twitter.
Disappointing and wrong decision by the UK on #Huawei. It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries. https://t.co/fp1D9Yn2vt
— Liu Xiaoming (@AmbLiuXiaoMing) July 14, 2020
Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK, sent a similar vibe with his statement regarding Boris Johnson government’s move:
“This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone. It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide,” he said.
“Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider. We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.” 2/4 pic.twitter.com/ovGe7CtdAm
— HuaweiUK (@HuaweiUK) July 14, 2020
“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security,” he said, similarly to what has now been argued by the Foreign Ministry. “Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.”
At the start of this year, the UK government permitted Huawei to take part in the build-up of its national fifth-generation-technology infrastructure, despite strong pressure from the Trump administration to renounce these plans. The United States insisted that the decision would compromise the country’s security and intelligence-sharing between the members of the Five Eyes alliance, which also includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The US had already banned Huawei last year from working with American businesses, cautioning that the company could conduct espionage on behalf of Beijing, a claim that has been denied by the company and the Chinese government.
The UK is now expected to stop using Huawei tech in its 5G networks by 31 December and remove all the existing equipment by 2027.