“The official explantion for the U-turn is that Britain’s spooks can no longer vouch for the security of Huawei’s kit now that the US has banned the sale of American chips to the Chinese technology company, forcing it to use domestic components. But there’s little doubt that the real reason is political. It had become clear that opposition from Tory backbenchers had made Mr Johnson’s original approach unsustainable.”
“The Times” leading article today
The idea that there is the slightest likelihood that Britain’s Security services on their own could “vouch for the security of Huawei’s kit” is laughable. They can’t – and nor do they need to. This is all another example of this Government’s preposterous British exceptionalism.
China is very big. It’s very big because the West ensured that it would be. Corporations like Huawei were created by Western demand, western exports, western finance and, initially anyway, Western style management. British companies, British financiers, British diplomats drove and fuelled China’s transformation from a big but backward country into a big and innovative and highly sophisticated one. But not on our own. The world came beating on China’s door. And the Chinese opened it very wide.
The cause of China’s current preeminence is that it was a convenient place for the West to transfer its manufacturing to as well, of course, for it being a massive and lucrative market. But China is also a threat. There is a paradox here. China’s very existence relies on supply to and demand from the West. Most of this is fairly benign and some of it highly beneficial (the manufacture of drugs and medical equipment for example). But with the current leadership of the People’s Republic being so nationalist as well as imperialist the West needs to take care. There is a real and present security threat seen gruesomely in Hong Kong and potentially in Taiwan. It’s more than sabre rattling.
The threat to security does not come from Chinese companies but from the Chinese Government. That they use companies like Huawei is obviously true. But the solution for the West is at a higher level. And it can only be combated by joint action . There is already extensive monitoring of what the Chinese Government is doing using sophisticated intelligence as well as old fashioned Agents on the ground. This is a cooperative effort across Europe and with allies in North America and around the world. Any “vouching” of Huawei takes place in this context – if the company is some sort of security threat it is a threat to all.
Boris Johnson is acting as if Britain on its own matters to the Chinese. But it’s all willy waving. Sending a gunboat will no doubt be welcomed in Peking – if they don’t already have an agent on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth I’m sure they soon will, not to mention electronic surveillance. Really they know Britain is no sort of threat but they’ll keep tabs on the carrier just to be sure.
Nixon in China gave the green light to the beginnings of the growth of the PRC as an economic and commercial force. The financial power this growth has given the Chinese drives their political and military power and ambition as well. Huffing and Puffing over Huawei by Boris Johnson is as comical as it is impotent. The challenge of protecting Britain’s interests will not be met by Virtue Signalling like this. It’s a rather bigger task and one requiring extensive transnational cooperation with allies.