Independent view of Huawei crucial for European interests
Published: Jul 09, 2020 08:07 PM

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

The news that German telecoms carrier Deutsche Telekom's ties with Huawei have seen an attitude reversal reveals the Chinese 5G frontrunner remains in troubled water in Europe despite its technological and product advancements. 

The US, under the guise of national security concerns, has been relentlessly cracking down on Huawei and has placed enormous pressure on its European allies to stay away from the leading 5G tech firm. It is attempting to buy time to catch up in the 5G race, at the cost of its allies' interests. However, a balanced strategy and cooperation are now crucial for the EU to recover from the pandemic and gain an advantage in the digital revolution era. 

Deutsche Telekom (DT), a leading telecoms carrier in Europe, had enhanced cooperation with Huawei with the aim of being a major player in 5G, according to a Reuters report citing German business newspaper Handelsblatt. Reuters later reported that a DT spokesperson had denied the information, clarifying that it had scaled down cooperation with the Chinese supplier.

With the US and certain European politicians continuously attempting to politicize economic activities, global technology leaders such as Huawei are unable to avoid harassment during development.

Economically speaking, Huawei, with high level of localization, has developed broad cooperation with European firms. Take DT as an example. Its long-term cooperation with Huawei in 4G equipment and other areas means it would be more effective and cost-efficient to upgrade its network to 5G through Huawei, not to mention utilizing Huawei's advancements in products and services. Cutting ties with the supplier would draw huge costs for European firms and delay their progress in the 5G arena.

In addition to commercial losses for telecoms carriers, it is estimated that European countries will see negative economic growth this year due to the pandemic. Seeking balancing points between China and the US, as well as between politics and economies, will be vital issues for the EU. China is the only large economy effectively resuming with favorable growth momentum and a continually opening market. The US, with the world's highest number of COVID-19 cases, has been shattering international systems without any consideration of its allies' interests.

Developing a more independent strategy is of great importance to European countries. Though the UK and France have seen setbacks recently, announcing reduced cooperation with Huawei, Germany has taken a relatively self-directed path and is trying to find a strategy which benefits itself the most, rather than sacrificing itself for US schemes. Under Germany's industry 4.0 strategies, national cooperation with China is critical and would include taking on a role in setting 5G-related standards. 

Though there are disagreements in certain areas, China and Europe maintain promising cooperation potential. Huawei's cutting-edge technology and the huge Chinese market offer critical support for Europe to develop its 5G framework, which will allow it to gain advantages during the digital revolution. 

As countries claiming to uphold free-market principles, the US and European nations should reflect on their constant political harassment in markets. Let the economic principles talk and let the market choose, rather than politicizing economic activities with fabricated security concerns. 

The author is director of the Center for European Union studies at the Renmin University of China and Jean Monnet Chair Professor.