Photo: NurPhoto / Jaap Arriens

Last year, US intelligence services convinced a group of allies in quick succession to ostracize Chinese telecommunications firms. Australia, New Zealand and Japan all effectively banned the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker, China’s Huawei.

But the campaign has stalled in Europe. Not a single European country has unveiled measures that would ban gear from Huawei – or ZTE, China’s fellow telecoms national champion.

Germany, a key NATO ally of the United States, went as far as to tell the press last week that they do not seek to ban Huawei, despite Washington’s insistence that Chinese companies pose a security risk.

Even some in the UK, a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network with the US, are pushing back. Robert Hannigan, the former Director of Britain’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, called US assertions “nonsense.” On Friday, Alex Younger, the current head of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service – also known as MI6 – suggested he doesn’t support a ban, telling reporters: “it’s more complicated than in or out.”

Decline of US leadership

In the end, some US policy experts lament, Washington’s fight against Huawei is really about the failure to form a coherent strategy to be competitive in high-tech industries.

“[The issue of Huawei] is or at least should be not about playing defense vis-a-vis competitiveness,” Robert Atkinson, who worked on China policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama administration, told Asia Times.

“Overall the idea that the US can keep its global market share in advanced technology industries without both strongly pushing back against Chinese ‘innovation mercantilism’ and putting in place a robust domestic innovation agenda is, I believe, misplaced.  We have to do both,” argued Atkinson, who is also the founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which has been ranked as one of the world’s top technology policy think tanks.

Under the Trump administration, the situation deteriorated. A head of the White House Office of Science and Technology was not appointed until last month, leaving the body largely unstaffed since Trump took office in 2017.

“The fact that President Trump took so long to appoint the head of OSTP suggests that the President does not see this as a priority,” Atkinson said.

There are signs that the White House is trying to remedy this situation. Following the belated appointment of a top science advisor several weeks ago, Trump signed an executive order on maintaining leadership in artificial intelligence this week. But it does not provide any funding, critics note, and comes more than five years after China mapped out a strategy of broad support for high-tech industries. China’s policies call for national champions such as Huawei to develop key technologies such as 5G.

Floundering campaign against Huawei

On the defensive side, the US has failed to make convincing arguments to allies.

Two simple reasons are driving European resistance: 1) the US has yet to publicly offer specific examples of what security risks the Chinese firms pose, and 2) Huawei offers better equipment at a lower cost.

“It’s hard to know for sure whether or to what extent the fears around Huawei’s equipment are overblown or not,” Doug Brake, Director of Broadband and Spectrum Policy at the aforementioned ITIF, told Asia Times.

“Agencies within the US government like FBI and NSA that have claimed that there are security vulnerabilities or security concerns have not made any direct, specific examples,” he said.

John Costello, a former National Security Agency Officer who is now an officer at the Department of Homeland Security, stressed that the US is not yet prepared to offer such important details.

“Right now it’s difficult […] to really make a set of visceral examples that I think the public would understand,” Costello said at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last week.

“Once we have a better understanding and can give better concrete examples that we think the public would digest I think you’ll see more from us on that,” he said, adding: “right now it’s just discussions with industry and really trying to understand the threat better.”

Paying a high price

“It will be a more expensive, perhaps not as high-performance network, keeping Huawei out of the market. That is not a costless decision,” Brake of ITIF said.

Major carriers in countries now resisting the US ban – including Vodafone in the UK and Deutsche Telekom in Germany – have warned that the financial costs and service disruption will be severe.

MI6 chief Younger, meanwhile, said the principal concern should be quality, and that does not need to come at the expense of security.

“We need to take a principles-based approach to this and the first is around quality,” Younger said in remarks to reporters Friday, as reported by Bloomberg. “This has got nothing to do with the country of origin; we should be insisting on the highest level of quality in any form of technology platform or service we choose to use and in particular security quality.”

US resorts to coercion

While the Washington intelligence community sorts out exactly what the risks are, top officials are now using threats to get allies to fall in line. The US ambassador to the EU warned in an interview last week that countries “may find themselves in a disadvantage in dealing with [the United States],” should they dismiss the security concerns.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a similar warning during a visit to Hungary on Monday.

“We have seen this around the world, it also makes it more difficult for America to be present; that is, if that equipment is co-located in places where we have important American systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them,” Pompeo said.

While Vice-President Mike Pence praised Poland for helping to “protect the telecommunications sector from China,” when traveling to the country this week, there is no sign that Warsaw is ready to give up Huawei gear.

“We don’t see slowdown in sales on Huawei equipment here,” Huawei’s standards manager in Europe, Goerg Mayer, said in a news conference. But, he acknowledged, “if the situation continues, at some point it will impact our business as well.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really loved browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing in your feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

  2. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show
    up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless,
    just wanted to say excellent blog!

  3. Thank you for another informative website. The place else may
    just I get that type of information written in such an ideal approach?

    I’ve a mission that I am simply now running on, and I have been on the
    look out for such info.

  4. There’s definately a great deal to find out about
    this topic. I like all of the points you have made.

  5. Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to
    see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she
    can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she
    has 83 views. I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  6. Its like you read my mind! You appear to understand so much about this, such as you wrote the
    e book in it or something. I think that you could do with some
    percent to drive the message house a bit, however instead of
    that, this is excellent blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  7. Pretty component of content. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire
    in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be
    subscribing in your feeds or even I fulfillment you get entry to consistently rapidly.

  8. Hello.This article was extremely fascinating, especially because I was investigating for thoughts on this issue last Thursday.

  9. Whats tough now is how the systematic appearance to life is not changed. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s nearly as if we run through the life experience with our eyes closed on, not understanding the true meaning of our own destiny.

  10. Hi there i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this article i
    thought i could also make comment due to this brilliant piece of

  11. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your website on my
    iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you provide here and can’t
    wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded
    on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, awesome site!

  12. I’ve learn some just right stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting.

    I wonder how much effort you place to make this sort of excellent informative web site.
    natalielise plenty of fish

  13. I have been surfing online more than 3 hours today,
    yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is
    pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made
    good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

  14. I’m pretty pleased to uncover this site. I wanted to thank you for ones time just
    for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every
    bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to look at new information on your blog.

  15. Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst you
    amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog website?

    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I were
    tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered
    vibrant transparent idea

  16. I’ve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of space
    . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this web site.
    Studying this info So i am happy to exhibit that I have
    an incredibly just right uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed.
    I most for sure will make certain to don?t disregard this website and provides it a look on a continuing basis.

  17. I do love the way you have framed this specific challenge plus it does supply me personally some fodder for consideration. On the other hand, coming from what precisely I have personally seen, I basically trust when other commentary pack on that individuals stay on point and not start upon a tirade of some other news du jour. Anyway, thank you for this fantastic point and while I can not really go along with this in totality, I value the viewpoint.

  18. I used to be recommended this blog by way of my cousin. I’m no longer positive whether this publish is written by way of him as nobody else recognize such unique approximately my difficulty. You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  19. really nice

    This is actually good information my friend. you are a very well-proportioned writer . i lust after to dividend with you my website as well. tell me what do you believe about it

    buy youtube views

    Thankyou again for posting such good content. Cheers

  20. This is the very interesting post. We like that you merely provide quality information and not merely write about something.
    Maintain it up and you will probably achieve great results.

    So what do an individual think about my site? magazin pescuit

  21. This is a really interesting website I must say.

    Too polluted that there are not too many websites like This anymore. But I am exhilarated that I develop it. Penetrating scribble literary works on it .

    You can see my website here as luxuriously: xbody dristor

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *