UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently allowed Chinese telecom giant Huawei to continue to be involved in Britain’s 5G network. The decision has raised concerns both in the UK and overseas, with US President Donald Trump expressing anger over the threat the US believes Huawei posses to international cybersecurity. But what has caused these concerns and how is the UK trying to answer them?
The UK has tried to reduce fears about security concerns, saying Huawei will be limited in what they are allowed to work on and will be kept away from military bases. There is also going to be a limit on Huawei’s market share to 35 percent, so that competitors like Nokia and Ericsson will still play a role in 5G installation.
However, these measures have not stopped the U.S. from worrying that this opportunity will provide a Chinese owned company to access critical cyberinfrastructure. In the past, the U.S. has made it clear how much they do not trust Huawei, from the arrest of Huawei’s global chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou to designating Huawei and ZTE as national security risks which prevented the companies from accessing $8.5 billion in U.S. government funding.
Trump also signed an executive order in May 2019 which added Huawei to the US Department of Commerce’s Entity List, which banned the company from doing business with U.S. companies. Since then, however, the ban has faced several 90-day reprieves, preventing the full ban from going into effect, with the last reprieve happening in November extending until March. It is unclear if the company will receive another extension, as the previous two faced uncertain futures until close to the deadline.
These bans originate from the claim by the U.S. that Huawei has engaged in helping Iran to skirt sanctions, as well as accusations of bank fraud.
All of this shows how distrusting the U.S. is of a company that may be helping the Chinese government on the geopolitical stage, a claim that has morphed into more of a he-said-she-said affair rather than one with a concrete answer. Huawei has claimed that it is not beholden to the Chinese government, but rather its workers through a union. On the other hand, the U.S. has claimed that the Chinese government has been secretly exerting control over the company, as Huawei is a privately-listed company rather than a public one.