The British government said Tuesday that it would allow chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to have a limited role in the country’s 5G rollout. The company will be prohibited from providing equipment to “sensitive parts” of the country’s 5G network and will be excluded from military bases and nuclear sites.
“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G rollout on track,” Huawei’s vice president Victor Zhang said in response to the announcement. “This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the U.K. access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”
The United States has tried to convince the British government to ban Huawei from the country’s 5G network. Washington is concerned that Huawei would provide a backdoor for the Chinese government to spy on U.S. assets and obtain confidential U.S. information.
“The United States is disappointed by the UK’s decision,” a senior U.S. government official said. “There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network.”
Trump administration officials recently visited London to warn against the Chinese telecom giant. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that opponents of Huawei should suggest an “alternative” for British 5G rollout.
U.S. politicians also reacted to the decision.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson “has chosen the surveillance state over the special relationship” in regards to his decision on Huawei. “Tragic to see our closest ally, a nation Ronald Reagan once called ‘incandescent with courage,’ turn away from our alliance and the cause of freedom.”
“Allowing Huawei to build the UK’s 5G networks today is like allowing the KGB to build its telephone network during the Cold War,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., said. “The CCP will now have a foothold to conduct pervasive espionage on British society and has increased economic and political leverage over the UK.” The CCP is an acronym referring to the Communist Party of china.
On Twitter, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri posted: “This is bad news – bad decision by UK and bad trend from our european partners. #China is not an ally, it’s the biggest threat to our security in the 21st century.”
Huawei is a bad strategic decision, but it's enforced by the UK's near helpless strategic positon. I wrote this in May… https://t.co/niUEpLCuQt https://t.co/NnOxh7ygHy
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) January 28, 2020
The decision by @BorisJohnson to allow Huawei into the UK’s telecommunications network is wrong, dangerous, and a grave shortsighted mistake.
Congress must work on a bipartisan basis to push back on this decision by the UK to open their arms to China’s surveillance state.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) January 28, 2020
Germany is another major European country that has struggled to find a stance on the Huawei issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she is against banning the company, but members of her Christian Democrat party have wanted to place more restrictions on Huawei and 5G.