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Huawei issue focuses spotlight on Sino-UK ties

By ANDREW MOODY | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-07-02 10:14


Fears voiced over proposed resetting of relations

The United Kingdom could be dealt a severe economic setback if Chinese telecom giant Huawei is barred from taking part in creating the country's 5G network, according to experts.

Some Conservative members of Parliament are calling on the UK government to reverse its decision taken in January to back Huawei's involvement in the next generation of wireless network technology.

Many in the business community are worried that any such U-turn would deny the UK the opportunity to be a European leader in the technology at a time when the country's economy needs a significant boost.

The UK has seen the third-highest number of deaths globally from the coronavirus pandemic, its GDP contracted by 20.4 percent in April and the country may fail to reach a trade deal with the European Union by its self-imposed deadline of the end of this year.

Much hinges on a report by the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK, which is due to be published this month. Some believe this may lead to the government backtracking on its earlier Huawei decision.

Alistair Michie, a UK business executive with long ties to China, said, "It will be deeply damaging to the UK if the British government bends to pressure to eliminate Huawei from its 5G network."

Michie, chair of the International Council at the Center for China and Globalization, an independent think tank based in Beijing, added that much of that pressure is coming from the United States.

"The US government is adopting a totally flawed strategy in its attempts to block global digital advances by trying to throttle China. The digital revolution thrives on open borders and exchanges and has already utterly changed the world, with immense benefits for everyone," he said.

The UK telecommunications industry has made its position clear on the issue.

Scott Petty, chief technology officer for Vodafone UK, a leading telecoms company, said any reversal of the Huawei decision would deny the UK a technological advantage.

"The UK's leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment," he told Reuters.

"The British government should make efforts to expand 5G coverage and invest in the next stage of this technology, instead of stripping out the equipment of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker."

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