Britain must follow the facts on Huawei, not the dogma
Tom Fowdy

Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the U.S. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Despite the increasing uncertainty of Huawei's participation in the UK's 5G network, the news emerged on June 21 that authorities in the country had approved Huawei's planning of building a near 500 million-U.S. dollar research and development center in Sawston, Cambridgeshire. 

The report states that the center will be used for "researching and developing chips for use in broadband." The council was "advised" to approve the application. It marks a broader part of the company's ambitions to diversify its own technological capabilities after renewed attempts from the U.S. to cut off the firm's access from critical chip and semiconductor technologies.

Not surprisingly, the move was attacked by hawkish Conservative MPs who sought to use it in their growing attempts to vilify the company and push for its removal from the UK's 5G network. Conservative Member of Parliament Damian Green attempted to write off the mega project as purely being an attempt to "influence" the British public. 

The move comes amid the government's contemplation of also placing new curbs on foreign investment on existing companies (particularly in the field of technology) citing national security. It is quite obvious that the moves are being motivated by diplomatic pressure from the U.S., which has relentlessly coerced the UK government to reverse its position on Huawei.

However, with this project being approved, it is clear that Downing Street still finds it a futile idea to close the doors to China and say no to such extraordinary levels of foreign investment. Facing the uncertainty of Brexit and an incredible economic plunge owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country needs it. 

In doing so, there has to be a broader acknowledgement that business and investment ties with Huawei remain in the national interest. The only reason the country is even having this conversation again is because of Washington and the COVID-19 blame game. The government and British security services have already made a judgement that Huawei's "risk" can be mitigated, pragmatism must supersede dogma.

The speed of a Huawei 5G mobile phone is tested at the Huawei 5G Innovation and Experience Center in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. /Xinhua

The speed of a Huawei 5G mobile phone is tested at the Huawei 5G Innovation and Experience Center in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. /Xinhua

Before the pandemic led to a dramatic escalation of anti-China sentiment and a political "blame game," Boris Johnson had made a clear decision concerning Huawei, albeit much to the resentment of some in his party. Recognizing his pledge on upgrading UK broadband, the prime minister identified that Huawei was ultimately beneficial to the British telecommunications industry and that a forced removal of it would be costly and detrimental. 

Economics were not the only consideration in that decision. UK security services repeatedly stated that the "risk" posed by Huawei to British networks was manageable, much to the disdain of Washington, which pushed an absolutist and fear-induced narrative. There were very good reasons the government didn't buy this at first.

A virus outbreak doesn't change that judgement, but it has instead empowered those whom have opposed it altogether from the beginning. The British mobile provider Vodafone has warned that removing Huawei will set the country back in network development and impose severe costs. 

A Guardian-cited study a year ago said a removal of Huawei may cost taxpayers an estimated 5 billion British pounds (5.59 billion U.S. dollars), not to mention the increased price of narrowing down the market. One must surely question, given that the risk is not as serious as claimed to be, is it really worth phasing out Huawei entirely from the network purely as a political show of discontent? Just to appease Washington and dogmatic Conservative MPs who aren't acting in the national interest?

The government's dilemma is on full display. They are being pressed to remove Huawei, but at the same time are still eager to accept a 500 million-U.S. dollar investment dedicated to researching new and cutting-edge technologies, which can make a huge contribution to British jobs, industry and technological prowess. 

And Huawei ultimately still has a lot of positive things to offer to Britain, and it was determined with balanced judgement and consideration of all the facts, that this could be done in a manageable way.

Instead, dogma has superseded pragmatism and Downing Street is being forced to make an expensive and unnecessary move, purely for political reasons, which will set the country back. It is suggested that Johnson stick to the facts on Huawei. 

It hasn't become "more of a threat," merely the political climate has changed, and in turn must opt for the bigger picture of the national interest in resisting the China hawks who are eager to burn Britain's bridges with one of its most important trading and investment partners, having already done so with Europe. The fact is that Huawei benefits Britain.

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