Australia overstates security concerns of Huawei link to Solomons

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/1 22:58:39

Australia may be oversensitive to China's growing presence in the Solomon Islands. According to a recent report from the Financial Times (FT), Canberra is poised to block a deal under which Chinese technology giant Huawei would run a seabed cable from Sydney to the Solomon Islands.

It is understandable that the Chinese project has made some Australian people uneasy amid souring bilateral ties. There are concerns that Huawei's influence within the submarine cable industry may pose a security threat.

However, if the concern is reasonable, Russia and other countries that have welcomed seabed cable investment by Huawei may have been naive. According to the FT report, "Huawei Marine Networks has won contracts to install 40,000 kilometers of submarine cable, enough to circumnavigate the planet."

In 2012, China's State-owned leading telecom company China Unicom initiated the Asia-Africa-Europe-1 (AAE-1) cable project, the world's leading submarine cable system, which spans 25,000 kilometers from Southeast Asia to Europe, according to the Xinhua News Agency. If a Chinese State-owned company was allowed to undertake this huge project connecting Western countries, concerns about security threats from Huawei, just a private company in which the Chinese government has no ownership, are absolutely unnecessary.

The submarine cable proposed by Huawei will help deliver high-speed internet and telecommunication services in the Solomon Islands, one of the world's least-developed countries. The islands have long depended on satellites for telecommunications, which are unstable and expensive. Huawei's involvement in the project would bring new momentum to the local economy.

Hopefully the project will not be blocked by Australia's unnecessary concerns over security threats.

The FT report said  an Australian scoping team recently visited the Solomon Islands, "which was showing 'great interest' in the offer to use development aid to co-finance the cable." It is not wrong to offer financial assistance to these underdeveloped islands but this can't be an excuse for Australia to prevent the Solomon Islands from embracing more opportunities for economic development. Submarine cables are not the main business of Huawei, which has become a leading global information and communications technology solutions provider. Canberra may be able to block a single submarine cable deal but Australia can't totally boycott the technology giant.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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