The feud between the US and China continues to gather pace ahead of a tense G20 summit as the nation petitions its allies to ditch Chinese 5G equipment.
Officials have long held concerns that equipment from Chinese manufacturers could be used for spying. While the US is most vocal, other countries have voiced similar views and either banned equipment – such as Australia – or taken measures to mitigate the risks, such as the UK and Canada.
All four of the aforementioned countries are part of the close ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing relationship. The final member, New Zealand, is currently deciding their stance.
The US now appears to be reaching beyond its usual security partners.
US officials are urging Germany, Italy, and Japan to reject Huawei and ZTE. It's reported they’re even offering aid in developing telecoms networks to countries which reject Chinese vendors.
Huawei says it is “shocked by the behaviours of the US government detailed in the article. If a government’s behaviour extends beyond its jurisdiction, such activity should not be encouraged.”
If the US' petition is successful, it would be seen as a win for the US in its ‘trade war’ with China. Western vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson would gain more business in a lucrative industry at the expense of Chinese.
Whether it’s an overall win or not, however, is questionable. Many experts believe equipment from the likes of Huawei is superior to Western counterparts. More competition also lowers prices, enabling telcos to rollout 5G networks more quickly and pass less cost on to consumers.
Defending its decision not to ban Chinese equipment, the head of Ottawa’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security claimed doing so would pose an increased security risk as it reduces the myriad of vendors used. If a specific vendor is compromised, it would represent less of the overall network.
Huawei’s equipment is currently in use around the world, including many European countries. Officials are more concerned about 5G networks due to their expected use for critical applications such as driverless cars, smart cities, and even remote surgery.
US President Donald Trump has vowed to fix China’s “long-time abuse of the broken international system and unfair practices” and imposed $250 billion of tariffs since last July. Half of all Chinese imports to the US are now subject to duties.
China has reciprocated with $110bn of tariffs on American goods. Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on the remainder of China’s $500bn-plus exports to the US if the disputes cannot be resolved.
Trump will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this week.
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