Sweden abandoned its historical neutrality by banning Chinese 5G techs
Andrew Korybko

Editor's note: Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Sweden's historical neutrality all throughout the last century is something that its people are very proud of after they declined to get directly involved in both World War II and the Cold War, yet the country just surprisingly abandoned that policy by taking the U.S.' side in what's been described as its global tech race with China. Late last month, its regulators banned Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country's 5G spectrum auction that is scheduled to take place next week. This follows reports from its security services alleging that China poses a so-called "threat" to Sweden, which echoes the U.S. and some of its allies' claims.

Sweden isn't a NATO member so it's strange at first glance that it would take its cues from the United States. In addition, the country is also very proud of its extremely liberal migration policies, which have seen it welcome hundreds of thousands of people from vastly different cultures than the local one. The authorities don't regard this as a security issue despite criticism from some observers, instead trumpeting their tolerance and openness as representing the true spirit of European society. In contrast, something less directly relevant to national security, such as China's 5G technology is seen as threatening and worthy of immediate restriction.

This is an obviously inconsistent approach that reeks of political hypocrisy. On the one hand, Sweden is open and tolerant of people from different countries migrating to its own, yet on the other, it's close-minded and suspicious of Chinese 5G companies. In addition, while Sweden prides itself on a being a law-abiding nation, its banning of Huawei and ZTE violates related rules and regulations. Instead of sticking to its historical policy of peace and cooperation with all, it's unexpectedly harming relations with China, which might in turn impose sanctions against Ericsson and other companies partially owned by the influential Wallenberg family.

A Tele2 logo sits on a Huawei Technologies Co. 4G internet router device displayed inside a Tele2 AB retail store at the Farsta Centrum shopping center in Stockholm, Sweden, January 4, 2013. /Getty

A Tele2 logo sits on a Huawei Technologies Co. 4G internet router device displayed inside a Tele2 AB retail store at the Farsta Centrum shopping center in Stockholm, Sweden, January 4, 2013. /Getty

It can't be known for sure why historically neutral Sweden would make such a risky move by siding with the U.S., which is completely out of line with its carefully cultivated reputation as a responsible rules-abiding member of the international community, but one theory might possibly explain it. It might very well be the case that the powerful Wallenbergs pressured the government to take this step in order for Ericsson to profit from Huawei and ZTE's exclusion from the Swedish market. In other words, they influenced the government to put narrow personal and financial interests above national ones, hence the earlier explained hypocrisy of Sweden's policy.

Going even further with the theory that the Wallenbergs' oligarchic interests are what's really behind this unexpected development, they might envision that Ericsson could replace Huawei and ZTE in other European markets as well if the U.S. is successful in pressuring more countries to ban these leading Chinese companies. If taken to its extreme, then Ericsson might end up monopolizing the European 5G market with the U.S.' tacit approval as a reward for its loyalty to America's anti-Chinese technological policies. Ericsson is already a major player in the EU tech sphere so it's easier for it to compete with China there than for an American company.

That said, it must be objectively recognized that the U.S.' pressure upon various countries to ban Chinese 5G tech companies is the opposite of the free and open conditions in which true competition is supposed to take place. Rather, this ominous observation strongly suggests that the U.S. has succeeded in leveraging its decades-long influence across the continent for the purpose of capturing one of the world's largest markets. The possibly impending monopolization of the European 5G marketplace by U.S.-backed Ericsson could be a disaster for consumers by leaving them with no choice but to accept whatever prices the company dictates.

Sweden needs to accept the consequences of this very unfriendly policy against China regardless of the reason why it banned Huawei and ZTE from next week's spectrum auction. If the country wants to avoid the possible imposition of countermeasures against its companies, then it should realize that it's still not too late to reverse its decision so long as the political will is truly present to oppose what certainly seems to be the U.S.-backed Wallenbergs' oligarchic role in risking the ruination of Chinese-Swedish relations. Failing to do so would expose the Swedish government as hypocritical and potentially take bilateral ties with China to their lowest-ever level.

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