Tuesday, 07 July 2020 06:31

Chinese envoy warns UK of adverse reaction if it changes Huawei stance Featured

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Liu Xiaoming: Any change in Huawei policy will send a bad signal to the Chinese business community. Liu Xiaoming: Any change in Huawei policy will send a bad signal to the Chinese business community. Courtesy YouTube

China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, has indicated that any change in the existing UK stance on telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies would send a bad message to the Chinese business community.

Xiaoming addressed a virtual press conference on Monday and said that a U-turn on the decision to allow Huawei to supply up to 35% of non-core gear for British 5G networks would damage London's image as an open business-friendly environment and meant the UK was forced to "bounce to the tune of other countries", the news agency Reuters reported.

His comments came in the wake of reports over the weekend that Huawei equipment will be phased out from British networks beginning from this year onwards.

The Telegraph, the same paper that leaked the decision about Huawei taken by former British prime minister Theresa May's government in May 2019, said on Saturday that the UK intelligence service GCHQ had reversed its earlier advice, which was made public in January, giving Huawei a chance to supply up to 35% of equipment for the non-core parts of networks.

Following US pressure, applied on Prime Minister Boris Johnson when Washington was approached about a trade deal, Britain agreed to review its earlier stance. The Telegraph said a report from the new review would be given to Johnson this week and it would conclude that new American strictures on Huawei would mean that any risk mitigation which was possible earlier would not be possible now.

In May, the US Department of Commerce said it would make changes in its Foreign Direct Product Rule which prevents a company from buying goods that are produced using American technology or equipment, no matter whether the firm making them is American or not.

Strict imposition of this rule would make it impossible for Huawei to obtain advanced semiconductors which it used in its smartphones and 5G base stations, among other products, from any firm that uses US equipment or technology – and most do. This is why the UK will argue that the risk from Huawei equipment has increased, because its semiconductors will, in future, be coming from sources other than the regular suppliers.

Earlier, yesterday Britain’s Digital Minister Oliver Dowden said the January announcement was not set in stone.

“We constantly review our security to ensure we have the best possible security for our telecoms network.” he added.

Xiaoming was quoted as saying: “The China business community are all watching how you handle Huawei. If you get rid of Huawei, it sends out a very bad message to other Chinese businesses.”

British firms Vodafone, O2, EE (a BT unit) and Three have all rolled out 5G networks, and used Huawei gear in non-core parts of the network. Spanish group Telefonica owns O2 and it has used Huawei’s infrastructure in some of its other networks. O2 has no wide use of Huawei in the UK, but has a network-sharing agreement with Vodafone.

The companies relied on the interim advice from May's government that this would be the government's final stance.

Industry sources have said if the UK went ahead with an earlier reported policy of removing Huawei equipment by the end of 2023, it would cost about £7 billion (A$12.9 billion).


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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