Pelosi's 'impeachment' of Huawei is doomed to fail
Huang Yongfu

Editor's note: Huang Yongfu is an economic affairs commentator. After his PhD, he started working at the University of Cambridge and then moved on to the UN system. He is an author of many papers and books in the field of global development. His current interests lie in global development and Sino-U.S. links, especially trade, financial, technological issues. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Tensions between Huawei Technologies Co. and U.S. officials reignited last weekend at the Munich Security Conference, which hosts foreign leaders and security heads each year.

Among others, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the U.S. Democratic House of Representatives, claimed that "China is seeking to export its digital autocracy" through Huawei, posing a national security threat. She rebuked European countries for using Huawei to build fifth-generation (5G) networks and joined the lobbying to call for excluding Huawei, by saying that they had taken "very dangerous path," and "nations cannot cede our telecommunications infrastructure to China for financial expediency."

Like the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Pelosi's "impeachment" of Huawei will never succeed; instead, she will be more appreciated and respected if she calls for global cooperation to regulate 5G networks and markets.

The alleged threat posed by Huawei

Nancy Pelosi's allegation in terms of a national security threat posed by Huawei is less likely to convince people with a sense of justice.

Huawei is the leader in 5G wireless networks, ahead of Finland's Nokia, Swedish Ericsson and Korean Samsung. It is the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, having been supplying network gear for large European economies such as the UK and Germany.

The Trump administration has been increasingly worried that Chinese dominance of the 5G wireless technology market by Huawei will pose a strategic threat to national security, the future of the U.S. economy and America's global technological dominance.

As a part of the Trump administration's campaign to stifle Huawei, U.S. officials have long alleged that Huawei could spy on, or disrupt, foreign networks on behalf of Chinese government. Last Thursday, U.S. officials indicted Huawei for allegedly posing a spying risk by building "back doors" designed for use by law enforcement that allow for covert access to mobile phone networks around the world. However, no evidence has been provided about the alleged backdoor access and whether the U.S. has observed Huawei using this access.

The accusation was rejected by the company which confirmed that it has never spied on behalf of any country and "has never and will never do anything that would compromise or endanger the security of networks and data of its clients."

To lock down technological leadership, the Trump administration has aggressively deployed an arsenal of economic measures against Huawei, citing national security grounds.

Domestically, the Trump administration put Huawei on an export blacklist in May 2019, cutting it off from some major U.S. semiconductor makers that supply components to Huawei, while granting some suppliers temporary exemptions from restrictions imposed. The administration blocked the company from participating in American networks earlier this year.

Internationally, the U.S. and Australia have been fighting to convince allies to shut Huawei out of their 5G networks.

The heavy lobbying to ban Huawei

Nancy Pelosi's recent lobbying for excluding Huawei is not going to work.

Recently, the U.S. has stepped up its campaign to persuade allies to ban Huawei from their next generation mobile networks. For example, in late December, Matthew Pottinger, a U.S. deputy national security adviser, traveled to Berlin to warn senior officials in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government that Huawei poses national security risks. But Germany will follow the UK in using Huawei.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to allow Huawei's entry into the UK's 5G network came despite Washington's warning. /AFP Photo

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to allow Huawei's entry into the UK's 5G network came despite Washington's warning. /AFP Photo

The fact is that Huawei at present represents the best 5G technological solutions and telecom equipment for next generation mobile networks capable of linking lots of devices – from cars to pacemakers – to the internet with faster connection speeds and competitive pricing. Making use of Huawei technology and network gear will lead companies to a technological jump in a cost-effective manner.

Many European countries have been in the process of building their next-generation 5G mobile networks. Without external intervention and threats, it is a sensible choice to take Huawei.

Despite heavy lobbying from the Trump administration, in January, the U.K., the closest U.S. ally in Europe, decided to allow Huawei gear in the non-core parts of its latest 5G network build-out, sparking widespread concern in Washington.

Both governments of Germany and France are set to put forward legislation that would allow Huawei full access to its 5G market given security guarantees. The big network operators in those European countries are using Huawei gear and indicate no worry about their own networks from being able to give access to Huawei.

The right manner to treat Huawei

Nancy Pelosi would be more convincing if she calls for more global cooperation to strengthen R&D on 5G wireless technologies and enhance regulation and monitoring over the next-generation mobile networks and market.

In fact, for the "back doors" concerns, all telecom equipment makers in Europe are required by law to develop "lawful interception interfaces" with a mix of physical components in their systems that allow law-enforcement authorities to tap into the networks to get information for lawful purposes, subject to restrictions. Such access is governed by laws and protocols in each country and only law enforcement officials or authorized officials at carriers are allowed, not the telecom equipment makers.

To shape novel technologies, ramp up competition, defend our innovation system and facilitate cooperation in fruitful ways, global agendas should be set up aiming to produce specific international norms and standards under the premise of fairness, justice and non-discrimination and should not exclude any country and apply to all equally.

The EU could take a lead in this regard as it has initiated a relevant rule-making process to govern big tech giants and the digital economy related to digital tax, antitrust, data privacy protection, free speech and so on.

We very much look forward to more global efforts to exploit the potentially large economic benefits of regulation and for more attention to be paid to the crucial issues of regulatory design that safeguards privacy of consumers and the security of information technology products and services.

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