Huawei’s global ambitions are being blunted as the United States steps up its campaign against the Chinese telecom company and other countries also push back against Beijing’s actions related to the pandemic and Hong Kong.
The UK is reexamining its approval of Huawei in its 5G rollout, while Singapore’s major carriers last week chose Huawei rivals, Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia, to build its next-generation wireless networks. Earlier in June, Canada’s main telco providers also shunned Huawei in favor of its European competitors.
The developments came after the Trump administration in May blocked the company, the word’s largest maker of telecom gear, from chips made with U.S. technology. The move could be a heavy setback for the firm, which relies on these crucial chips to build and maintain its 5G network equipment, said Claude Barfield, an international trade expert at the Washington-based think tank American Enterprise Institute.
Meanwhile, Huawei is also facing growing opposition in Europe due to countries’ deteriorating attitudes toward the Chinese Communist regime in response to its mishandling of the initial outbreak and massive disinformation campaign during the pandemic.
“This is being heightened undoubtedly by what’s happening in Hong Kong,” Barfield told The Epoch Times, referring to Beijing’s recent move to impose a national security law for the city, tightening its grip on the territory.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech at the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum on May 25 described a “transatlantic awakening to the truth of what’s happening” on challenges posed by the communist regime, including “Huawei, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state.”
Washington has consistently warned of security risks posed by Huawei’s equipment in 5G infrastructure. U.S. officials say the company’s gear could be used by Beijing for spying or to disrupt communications networks, citing its links to the regime and Chinese security laws that compels companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies when asked.
The firm has also been implicated in espionage for the regime, according to the U.S. State Department. A Nov. 2018 report by The Australian news outlet cited secret Australian intelligence reports that confirmed Huawei had turned over passwords and access details to China’s intelligence services, to allow them access to a “foreign network.”
The defense department last week included Huawei in a list of 20 companies that are owned or controlled by the Chinese military, prompting calls for economic sanctions.
The company has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that it is a private company and is not compelled by laws to work with Beijing. Huawei U.S. did not respond to a request for comment.
Huawei is also fighting two federal actions, in which prosecutors accuse it of violating sanctions on Iran, engaging in a yearslong campaign of intellectual property theft, and stealing trade secrets from T-mobile.
Pompeo in a statement on May 24 pointed to a building momentum in favor of “secure 5G.”
“The more countries, companies, and citizens ask whom they should trust with their most sensitive data, the more obvious the answer becomes: not the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state,” he said.
The secretary listed the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Romania, Denmark, and Latvia as among countries that only allow trusted vendors in their 5G networks. The department also has a list of telecom companies around the world that only work with trusted vendors and have rejected working with Huawei, labeling them “Clean Telcos.”
For years, the United States has sought to convince its allies to shun Huawei from its 5G infrastructure on national security grounds. Pompeo has previously warned that Washington would have to reevaluate its intelligence sharing with countries that adopt Huawei.
While the UK government approved Huawei’s participation in the nation’s 5G network in January, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to reassess the decision after piling pressure from lawmakers within his own party. A growing number of UK lawmakers have hardened their positions towards China’s communist regime since the fallout from the pandemic, angered by Beijing’s ongoing coverups and disinformation campaigns.
Johnson has reportedly instructed officials to draw up plans to phase the company out of Britain’s network in three years’ time.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said last week that the UK should side with the United States in its stance toward Huawei.
“I think we do need to make a call and I think it has got to be pro-U.S. in the end,” Blair said in a livestreamed interview with Reuters Newsmakers.
He noted that “Huawei [has] an infrastructure that we need that is already quite embedded, and the truth is it’s a lot cheaper than the alternatives that are being developed up to now.”
But “America feels very strongly about this, and they feel strongly for good enough reasons, so I think it’s very hard for us,” Blair said. “It’s very hard for us not to be with the U.S. on anything that touches U.S. security.”
Klon Kitchen, director of the center for technology policy at Washington-based think tank Heritage Foundation, said that Huawei has been an attractive 5G supplier to many countries because of its lower prices, which it has been able to offer due to financial support from the Chinese regime.
In return for the generous assistance from Beijing, companies like Huawei are then mandated to act as an extension of the state apparatus to conduct surveillance and other activities, Kitchen told The Epoch Times.
“It causes very real security threats and massive distortions and the global free market,” he said.
Currently, France and Germany both are yet to formally ban Huawei from its 5G rollout. But they are in the midst of deciding whether it will be barred in practice.
In India, where a recent deadly border clash with China has triggered widespread calls for boycotts and retaliation against the Chinese regime, the government has barred state-run telecom companies from using any new Huawei equipment for future 4G networks. It is also reportedly considering excluding Chinese companies, including Huawei, from the country’s 5G rollout.