Three days before the UK left the European Union, on January 28, 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for Huawei to develop Britain’s 5G network. Huawei is a China-based seller of telecommunications equipment, including smartphones, which claims to be private; however, its exact ownership remains unknown. The main criticism surrounding Huawei is the company’s links to the Chinese Communist Party.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States and other countries have claimed that Huawei is a threat to national security, precisely because of issues related to cyber espionage, intellectual property theft and trade violations. For instance, there is a possibility that the 5G infrastructure could contain “backdoors” that provide the Chinese Government with access to the inner workings of the US government and to attack communication networks and public utilities. A 2017 jury found Huawei guilty of stealing intellectual property from US telecommunications firms, while two years later, the company tried to steal design information from a T-mobile robot. Finally, a federal indictment found that the company decided to do business with Iran, even though sanctions were in place.
The United States has taken several measures to ban Huawei. In early 2019, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the US Senate to address concerns about Chinse tech companies, while in May of that year, President Trump issued a national security order effectively banning Huawei. Australia was one of the first countries to enforce partial bans on Huawei and thus exclude it from 5G development in the country. In 2018 the Australian Government noted that Huawei was “to be subject to extrajudicial directions from Beijing” and that the government “could not find a set of security controls that would mitigate high-risk equipment in a 5G scenario.” Similarly, New Zealand and Japan have followed the American and Australian example in banning Huawei from taking the lead in the development of their 5G networks, citing security risks once again.
Here in the UK, the report of the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) , an oversight board watchdog group, noted that Huawei’s approach to software developments brings significant risks to UK operators. At the same time, the company has not made any material progress in addressing security risks.
Despite all these risks, the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport noted that Huawei would be operating 35% of the overall network. At the same time, the company will also be excluded from “sensitive” areas such as nuclear facilities and the military. Even though other countries such as Russia and Germany have been using Huawei for the development of their 5G networks, the United States has strongly condemned Downing Street’s decision. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the CCP does not have an “a technical back door to Huawei.” Instead, it has “the front door.”
Luckily, the free market offers a bey of options that can help governments develop their 5G networks. For instance, the Swedish company Ericsson has been establishing several new hubs and research and development sites across Europe to focus on 5G development. Orange, one of the main telecommunicators in France, snubbed Huawei for Nokia and Ericsson as its 5G development.
China is run by a dictatorial regime that continues to gain power and cannot be trusted. From trying to curve civil liberties and freedoms in Hong Kong to the repression of the Uygur population of Xinjiang and most recently, the spread of the coronavirus. The fact that the Chinese Government did not act immediately to contain the epidemic, indicates that the Chinese Government is not a reliable partner.
I hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the British Government reconsider their decision to allow Huawei to operate in Great Britain since our national security cannot be put at risk.
Written by Anastasia Kourtis