A Huawei executive has suggested that the UK backtrack on its ban of the controversial Chinese company in the wake of the US elections. The Guardian quotes company VP Victor Zhang, who is urging politicians in the UK to let Huawei take part in the 5G rollout and undo the ban. Zhang believes that the decision to ban Huawei was “motivated by US perceptions of Huawei and not those of the UK,” which was not “motivated by security, but about a trade war between the US and China.”
In July, the UK essentially banned Huawei’s gear from being used by mobile networks, making purchases illegal from December 31st, 2020. The UK’s National Cyber Security Center said, however, that it had not seen any “specific evidence” of malicious code or backdoors, although it has always regarded the company as hostile. In October, the UK’s Defence Committee has urged an outright ban of Huawei infrastructure to be brought forward to 2025, despite this lack of a smoking gun tying the company to espionage.
America has certainly been urging the UK to stand in lockstep on the subject of Huawei, with senior officials flying across the pond to make their case. When the UK stopped short of an outright ban on the company earlier this year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged a “relook.” A few months later, the country had decided on an official ban, and told phone networks to begin stripping out their Huawei gear.
It may be that Huawei has seen the fate of another Chinese technology company that was the enemy right until I wasn’t; TikTok. The outgoing administration had mandated the social video app be divested from its Chinese owner or face a ban. But as the November 12th deadline approached, officials went silent until the Commerce Department extended the deadline to the end of the month. Perhaps, as the administrations priorities pivot towards the transition, the issues surrounding TikTok, and Huawei, will be left for someone else to sort out.
Zhang added that removal of Huawei will hamper the UK’s growth at a time when its facing the COVID and Brexit crises at the same time. The ban, he says, “will widen the north-south digital divide,” and hopes that the government will “look to see if there is a better way forward.”