The US Cranks up Heat on Huawei in 5G Competition With China
The Trump administration is increasing its efforts to prevent Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from expanding its 5G network in the United States and across the globe, reports show.
5G technology, from “fifth generation,” is the next generation of telecommunications broadband network, involving significantly faster internet speeds — owing to a wider range of broadband spectrums — that has applications for allowing factory buildings, autonomous cars, and cities to be run with increasingly limited human intervention, for instance, by facilitating access to artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies.
The Trump administration is reportedly convinced that the US is engaged in a new arms race with China, with cyber warfare and telecommunications being the prominent area of concern. As countries’ military operations and counterintelligence efforts are increasingly cyber-controlled — soon to be assisted by the impending rollout of 5G broadband — prominent voices and policy establishments in Washington have sounded the alarm on Huawei’s possession of such technology and expansion of its network and related resources in the US (not to mention across the globe) owing to the Chinese telecoms company’s unclear links with Beijing and the People’s Liberation Army.
Washington’s suspicion of Huawei’s purported collaboration with the Chinese government is not new. The US has prevented the company from fully entering the US market since its establishment in 1988 and rapid breakneck growth in the following two decades. In 2014, former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden leaked to the news media that the NSA, in cooperation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence agents affiliated with the White House, electronically broke into Huawei servers to collect evidence from email archives and product source codes to confirm US suspicions against Huawei.
US allies have also expressed their concerns regarding Huawei’s expansion into their own telecommunications and mobile broadband networks, with the most notable example being the United Kingdom. After Huawei was contracted by British Telecom to supply critical equipment and infrastructure for a massive upgrade in 2005, the British government revealed in 2010 that significant efforts had been undertaken by British security and intelligence agencies to sample and monitor suspicious patterns on the Huawei-supplied network. Ultimately, such efforts resulted in British Telecom replacing most of the Huawei infrastructure and the UK Parliament expressing serious concerns over “foreign involvement in the critical national infrastructure.”
Huawei repeatedly has denied the suspicion that the company collaborates with the Chinese government or the military. Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei has commented, “I support the Communist Party [of China]. But I will not do anything to harm the world.”
The Trump administration’s ratcheting up of efforts against Huawei coincides with a new round of trade negotiations between the US and China. Experts anticipate the US stance against Huawei, including its role in the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada, to be a hindrance to both countries reaching an agreement.
In order to counter the Huawei’s recent expansion in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the US is pressuring its allies, especially NATO and “Five Eyes” allies, to block Huawei from acquiring phone networks. Countries such as Britain, Poland, and Germany have been urged by Washington to ban Huawei from upcoming auctions that will sell radio spectrum for new 5G telecommunications networks.
It is unclear whether or not the Trump administration’s attack on Huawei solely reflects national security concerns. Some countries that are pressured by the US to block Huawei questioned if the US is actually acting out of fear of losing the competition against China in building 5G networks.
While the European Union has formally begun to consider proposals to severely limit (if not outright ban) Huawei’s activities within the economic and political bloc, sources close to President Trump have signaled that an executive order formally restricting Chinese telecommunications firms in their operations in the US over national security concerns is in the works.
Australia has already banned Huawei and ZTE from being suppliers of 5G equipment for its national broadband network. Additionally, Poland, which is planning to have an American military base built, has shown signs that it will comply with the US to block Huawei from building the country’s 5G network after a former Polish security official was arrested on charges of espionage for China earlier in January this year.