The Huawei issue cuts to the heart of tensions between security and economic interests when it comes to China and Chinese influence. While many countries around the world share Washington’s suspicion — even hostility — towards Beijing, they are unwilling to take the economic hit that openly standing apart from China would entail.
UK in chaos
Nowhere will Trump’s order cause more chaos — outside perhaps Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen — than in the United Kingdom.
The Huawei issue has exposed new tensions within May’s Conservative Party, already riven over Brexit and shopping around for a new leader to takeover when the Prime Minster stands down in the wake of the UK eventually agreeing how to leave the European Union.
May and her allies are believed to favor limited involvement of Huawei in British network infrastructure, but not a full ban. This is based on the advice of GCHQ, the British intelligence agency responsible for communications surveillance, which has advised close monitoring of Huawei.
He accused May — in ignoring US and Australian advice against Huawei — of “putting in danger the 70 year intelligence sharing relationship that has underpinned the security of the UK is worth it, for Chinese commercial gain.”
That sense of commercial gain is likely to come into sharp focus should the UK finally leave the EU. Brexit supporters have made it clear they hope better trade relations with China will help boost the British economy in the face of an unavoidable dip following a split with Europe.
Bob Seely, another Conservative member of the committee, has argued that “Huawei — by definition — cannot be a trusted provider because it comes form a one-party state and is mandated to work with Chinese security services.”
The Chinese company has strenuously denied espionage claims, saying that agreeing to spy for Beijing would be equivalent to committing economy suicide.
Another of Huawei’s rotating chairmen, Ken Hu, is also in Europe this week. On Thursday, Hu will attend the annual Viva Tech conference in Paris, alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.
During a recent visit to the UK and Germany, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that allowing Huawei into those countries’ telecoms infrastructure would make partnering with them “more difficult.”
She said the German government would discuss any concerns with European partners, “as well as the appropriate offices in the United States.”