This year has not been an annus mirabilis for China’s Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity, goes the old saying. But Huawei has been making headlines this year because of spurious claims that it somehow poses a threat to the West, even to world peace. It has never been explained exactly how it poses such a grave threat.
In fact, it is not because of anything it has done, but because its success has brought it into the crosshairs of the United States’ anxiety attacks against China.
Huawei is at the forefront of fifth generation technology. This latest generation mobile network promises to bring the much-anticipated Internet of Things to life, and the US is determined to be the 5G leader.
This is partly down to the fact that whichever country develops the technology that is adopted as standard will have a huge commercial advantage. It is also because by setting that standard it will have a knowledge advantage.
As a result, first the US and then one after another its most obedient allies have blocked Huawei from entering their 5G markets on security grounds.
None of them has offered any specific justification for blocking China’s tech giant. They just repeat their claim that the company poses a security risk. That is why objective observers have concluded that these countries are likely politicising a commercial issue.
It sets a harmful precedent. What if other countries used the same excuse to block US companies not confined to the telecom sector? American companies are very competitive in many fields, including those that could pose huge security risks, such as finance.
While Huawei will not go unscathed by being blocked from entering key markets, as a competitive player it still has a vast market to access in other parts of the world. It has signed contracts to supply 5G equipment to 25 telecom carriers, and more than 10,000 5G base stations have been shipped.
In stark contrast to the US and its allies, India for instance, has invited Huawei to conduct 5G trials in the country and complimented it on the role it has played in helping to develop the subcontinent’s telecom industry.
The efforts of the US and its allies to shield their companies against a Chinese competitor are politically motivated, not the result of a fact-based or transparent decision-making process. And they are counterproductive to the concerted efforts that are needed to ensure the security of 5G networks.