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US allies may divide in containing Huawei

2018-12-17

Source: Global Times    Published: 2018-12-1


Voices against calls for a boycott of Chinese telecom giant Huawei have emerged in France and Germany despite Washington's alleged attempts to persuade wireless companies and internet providers in allied countries to shun equipment made by Huawei.


Chinese analysts on Sunday cautioned US allies to think twice, stressing that if they choose to take the side of the US and elbow out Huawei's 5G internet networks, a huge price would be paid.


Amid growing tensions between China, Canada and the US over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, the company's ambition to be a vanguard in next-generation telecoms now is colliding with cyber security concerns abroad.


Reuters reported Friday that Huawei faces fresh challenges in Europe as Germany's Deutsche Telekom announced it would review its vendor strategy and France's Orange said it would not hire the Chinese firm to build its next-generation network in France.


Reuters said the shift by multiple national market leaders follows Huawei's exclusion on national security grounds by some US allies, led by Australia, from building their 5G mobile networks.


US officials have briefed allies that Huawei's network equipment may contain "back doors" that could open them up to cyber espionage, media reported.


"We don't foresee calling on Huawei for 5G," Orange CEO Stephane Richard told reporters in Paris. "We are working with our traditional partners - they are Ericsson and Nokia," according to Reuters.


However, the CEO said on French news program Good Morning Business on Friday that he particularly regrets the "anathema" thrown against the Chinese giant.


Stephane Richard was referring to debate on Huawei as a political and not a technical matter and said he just takes into account the messages of caution sent by the authorities in France, but "it is a form of handicap" to his company.


"Our German friends do not mind working with Huawei at all, especially since the Chinese group offers very low prices vis-à-vis the competition," the CEO said.


Huawei told the Global Times on Saturday that the company was not a supplier to Orange's existing 4G network in France and would not feature in the company's 5G plans in France.


French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at a press conference following the Sixth China-France High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue on December 7 in Paris that investments by Huawei are "welcome" in his country, the Xinhua News Agency reported.


Huawei has seen a 16-year presence in France and set up four research centers, including chips and mathematic research in the country. In 2014, Huawei announced a 1.5 billion euro ($1.7 billion) investment over three years in the French market, focusing on its smartphone business.


Separately, Germany's IT watchdog said that it has seen no evidence Huawei could use its equipment to spy for China, news weekly Spiegel reported on Friday.


"For such serious decisions like a ban, you need proof," Arne Schoenbohm, head of Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), told Spiegel, adding that his agency had no such evidence.


Schoenbohm said BSI experts had examined Huawei products and components from around the world. They had also visited Huawei's newly opened lab in Bonn, where German clients can inspect the firm's cyber security measures and the software behind its products, AFP reported.


When asked about the prospect of Huawei building 5G networks in Germany, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in an interview with Reuters on Friday that "there are no concerns about individual companies," but each product, each device must be secure if it is going to be used in Germany.


Huawei has agreements to field test 5G equipment with Deutsche Telekom, Bell Canada, France's Bouygues, Telecom Italia, India's Bharti Airtel and carriers in Singapore, South Korea and Ireland, ABC News reported.


Unjustified pressure


Australia and New Zealand have barred Huawei as a supplier for 5G networks. Earlier this month, Japan's cyber security agency said Huawei and other vendors deemed risky will be off-limits to government purchases.


The Wall Street Journal said in November that the US is also mulling more financial aid for telecoms development in countries that avoid using Chinese-made equipment, citing people familiar with the situation.


China's Foreign Ministry slammed Huawei critics for "hyping so-called threats" to hamper the company's business without evidence.


A price to pay


Analysts stressed that Huawei's case is a political issue.


"Some people in the US are trying to distance themselves from China and fear that its market and trade will be replaced by US allies if they maintain normal economic and trade relations with China. The US is sparing no efforts to unite its allies together," Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University of China's School of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.


If the US and its allies work together, the world will enter a new Cold War, said Jin, urging the allied countries to shoulder their responsibilities.


Jin noted that China is willing to invest in Western countries. "Only if we open up more to them could we better access their markets," he said.


Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Center for American Studies, sees Huawei's case as an opportunity for China to strike back.


"Huawei's case could be a reminder to US allies that if they continue to contain Chinese enterprises with the US, they will pay a big price," said Wu.


Jin Canrong is associate dean of Renmin University of China's School of International Studies.

Key Words: US allies   Huawei   Jin Canrong  

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