Huawei’s 5G force triggers a global pushback against China

Growing pressure mounts on the giant telecom group amid allegations of close links with Beijing

Huawei technology is being stripped out of 5G networks in the United Kingdom.

A deadline of next September has been announced by the UK government amid growing “national security” concerns surrounding the Chinese high-tech group.

“I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk vendors from our 5G networks,” Oliver Dowden, the government’s Digital minister, said in a statement on Monday.

“This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecom equipment which poses a threat to our national security,” he added.

The news came after the UK ordered British telecom providers to remove all Huawei components from its 5G network by the end of 2027.

Why is Huawei being targeted?

In the past 18 months, the company built by former People’s Liberation Army officer Ren Zhengfei has been dragged into the trade war between the United States and China after being placed on a US blacklist.

Washington has branded the group a national security risk because of its alleged ties to the ruling Communist Party and the PLA.

Witch hunt

Responding to those allegations, Ren and other senior Huawei directors have categorically denied the charges and called the firm’s ban in the US a witch hunt. 

Still, the US Department of State is adamant that the group “cannot be trusted to tell the truth or protect the interests of others.” In its defense, Huawei has accused “the US government” of “spreading misinformation for more than a year.”

Have other nations banned Huawei from their 5G networks?

Yes. Apart from the US and UK, Sweden was the latest to block Huawei from its 5G spectrum auction last month. 

Other countries include Canada and Australia while major European Union nations, such as Germany, France and Italy, are hedging their bets.

“Huawei is subsidized by the PRC [the People’s Republic of China] – for a reason – but others are priced competitively. Beijing’s state-backed banks provide tens of billions of dollars in subsidized financing to Huawei so the PRC can gain access to foreign markets and achieve strategic global dominance,” the US Department of State stated in a report last year entitled Huawei: Myth vs Fact

“Huawei’s efforts to monopolize the 5G market have worrisome implications in terms of eliminating competition, controlling supply chains, and manipulating pricing,” it added.

But are these countries just following Washington’s lead?

China is convinced that is the case. Yet a closer look illustrates a more complex picture.    

Clearly, the EU has problems with Huawei’s links with President Xi Jinping’s administration as it dominates the Chinese technology landscape.

Alarm bells

Rapid global expansion has also raised alarm bells with the company revealing it now operates in “170 countries and regions, serving more than three billion people around the world.”

But, again, this is considered a smokescreen by US critics to hobble Huawei’s global ambitions. 

“Not only has the US government continued to adopt more coercive and restrictive measures against specific companies, such as Huawei, but it has also begun to emphasize the national nature of companies, products and services in an attempt to exclude Chinese companies from the US digital market entirely,” Li Zheng, of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, wrote in a commentary for China-US Focus, an academic website.