February 20, 2019
A defence and security think tank has condemned the UK government, suggesting it at best naïve and at worst irresponsible for trusting Chinese vendor Huawei.
With the UK seemingly rejecting the US’ aggressive stance against China and its internationally successful businesses, it looks like the isles will be a safe haven for Huawei. That said, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has undermined the position of the government and the National Cybersecurity Centre suggesting there is a very real threat to the rhetoric.
“There must be a balance between national security interests and technological gain, because the UK benefits from the contributions of Chinese research students in the UK,” the report states.
Economically, technologically and politically, there is a lot to gain from a relationship with China, the RUSI suggests such governments should be treated with caution. Although there is little concrete evidence which connects Huawei with the Chinese government, at least on the grounds of espionage, that is not to say caution should not be exercised.
While it might sound like scaremongering, RUSI highlights four points. Firstly, the Chinese government has history in using technology for espionage. Secondly, placing a backdoor in communications infrastructure is a lot easier than finding one. Thirdly, due to certain laws, Huawei employees might have no choice but to aide the government in its ambitions. Finally, the UK might ostracize itself economically through working with the vendor.
The final point is an interesting one. The UK is part of the Five Eyes intelligence allegiance alongside the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Three of these nations have already banned Huawei from participating in 5G networks and may not be enthusiastic developing closer relationships with those who have not. Considering part of the justification for Brexit was to have the freedom to forge new trade relationships, the UK might well be scuppering its ambitions before its even left the Union.
In short, the RUSI is effectively suggesting the UK should ban Huawei, as well as other Chinese companies, from accessing or contributing any components or services which access data or functions which might compromise national security. Telecommunications infrastructure and the national power grid are two examples.
If this position does sound familiar it might be because this is the same propaganda which US officials have been peddling around Europe over the last couple of months. Many of the threats identified by the RUSI are theoretical or circumstantial, but they are true. That said, the RUSI is wandering dangerously close to the pig-headed ‘he said, she said’ approach to international politics which has plagued the White House over the last couple of months.
As it stands, Huawei is not in the healthiest position, but it is certainly far from the gutter and a powerful influence on the telecommunications and technology world. There are numerous governments which are pondering their positions, but it does seem the anti-China rhetoric is losing momentum.
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