Britain can't afford a complete Huawei cutoff: experts

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/15 19:52:01

Photo taken on Nov. 20, 2019 shows Huawei's exhibition booth during a press preview for the 2019 World 5G Convention in Beijing, capital of China.(Xinhua/Li Xin)

The UK can't afford to reverse course on Huawei's involvement in its 5G network rollout, Chinese experts said on Monday, urging London not to hit the self-destruct button in terms of its economic ties with Beijing. 

If UK telecoms giants are ordered to phase out Huawei's equipment, as urged by some members of the UK's ruling Conservative Party, the nation will suffer mobile phone blackouts for 10 days or two weeks, the Sunday Times reported over the weekend.

Two British majors - BT and Vodafone, which are heavily reliant on Huawei equipment in their 4G networks - are lobbying fiercely against the push to cut off Huawei by 2023, the newspaper said. The two would need to strip out roughly 19,000 mobile phone masts across Britain if the Huawei ban materializes. 

There is little chance of the UK eventually opting to entirely phase out Huawei equipment, as there are no alternatives to the Chinese telecom giant's 5G offerings as measured by both technological strength and affordability, Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Monday.

The UK government, under pressure from the US, is wobbling on its adoption of Huawei technology, as part of its wider China policy, thereby putting British telecom operators in an awkward position, he said.

Xiang said that a coercive shift toward Nokia and Ericsson equipment would mean a 20-30 percent increase in costs for UK operators.

The proposed ban deviates from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's approval in January of a "limited" role for Huawei in building the nation's 5G infrastructure.

A potential thaw in China-US relations is likely to swing the UK back toward a pro-China stance, Xiang remarked. 

When asked to confirm media reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Monday that China and the US have maintained communications through diplomatic channels.

The UK government shouldn't oscillate between sober behavior and US-inflicted blindness, Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Monday.

"It's impractical to ban Chinese firms from the UK market while hoping for China to continue to widen access for [British] investment," Bai stressed, calling for the Johnson administration to act in the interests of both countries, instead of succumbing to US political pressure. 

The China-Britain Business Council is reportedly urging FTSE100-listed companies to lobby the UK government to foster China-UK relations rather than the other way around. "One of our first strategic moves post-Brexit should not be to write off a country and a market of 1.4 billion people," the council reportedly said in a briefing document. 


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