UK shouldn’t be held hostage by US on Huawei issue
Published: Jul 25, 2019 09:33 PM
With conservative politician Boris Johnson taking over as UK prime minister on Wednesday, he immediately faces a string of challenges, including deciding whether to ban, partially admit or allow Chinese tech company Huawei's complete involvement in the rollout of Britain's 5G network.

Johnson said that the UK should not be doing anything that would deter cooperation with its most valuable intelligence partners, the Five Eyes, when questioned on Huawei by Reuters at a campaign event in late June. Citing those remarks, some US media asserted the possibility that the UK would exclude Huawei as a 5G supplier would increase after Johnson takes office. However, it's too early to say. 

It's the UK government's ambition for the country to be a world leader in 5G and ensuring the 5G networks can roll out without delay is essential to make it come true. What are the alternatives to Huawei in 5G in the UK? The fact is there are no other options that are as cheap, good, efficient and easy to install as Huawei's equipment. If the UK pulls the Chinese firm's kit from its 5G networks, this would delay the rollout by up to 18 months, UK mobile operator Three warned in March. 

Should there be substitutes, it's likely the UK government would ban Huawei's 5G involvement. But there appears to be zero alternatives. Conservatives are usually pragmatic. In an interview with Phoenix TV on Tuesday, Johnson said his government would be very "pro-China," vowing to keep Britain as "the most open economy in Europe" for Chinese investments. The new government under Johnson is supposed to know what's in the best interests of the UK on the Huawei issue.

Accusing Huawei of being a security threat, the US is forcing allies, the UK in particular, to exclude Huawei equipment from 5G networks. However, the US hasn't shown any convincing evidence to support its accusations. Just a few days ago, the UK's Science and Technology Select Committee said they found no evidence to "suggest that the complete exclusion of Huawei from the UK's telecommunications networks would, from a technical point of view, constitute a proportionate response to the potential security threat posed by foreign suppliers." 

Whether or not to ban Huawei is by no means an issue of national security but a test of the UK's diplomatic independence. Being influenced by Washington will definitely not bring any benefits to London. The UK's 5G decision shouldn't be held hostage by US foreign policy. Being a US ally doesn't mean the UK isn't capable of, or cannot afford, acting against the will of the US. 

Despite provocative remarks made by the UK on Hong Kong, China-UK relations have generally been stable. The two countries realize that maintaining a healthy relationship is in the interest of both countries. A Huawei ban will mean a turning point, putting the bilateral ties in jeopardy. China doesn't want to see such a scenario. It's hoped the UK government makes a wise decision on the Huawei issue. Shouldn't it insist on choosing the best for itself rather than being kidnapped by US foreign policy?     

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