A Chinese Perspective on the British Ban of Huawei
● The UK’s decision to ban Huawei isn’t well thought through
● A few nationalistic Tories and their supporters have forgotten today’s embarrassing position in terms of technology
● Damage has already been done given Huawei and indeed other Chinese/Non-Chinese involvement in building UK’s telecommunications network (3G and 4G)
● Don’t overestimate Huawei, and never underestimate the performance of Chinese spies. Get 5G done and spend more on cybersecurity instead of conventional forces (e.g. aircraft carrier)
Let me briefly introduce myself to give you a better idea of where I am coming from. I was born in a coastline city in China, where the headquarter of Alibaba is located. I went to a UK independent school in the southeast and a university in the midlands. I am very much into consumer gadgets and produced a buying guide for English consumers to purchase Chinese made phones in 2016 as part of my Extended Project Qualification. So, I can confidently say I know these Chinese phone brands’ strategies and practices very well. I also had a peculiar period of obsession in finding out the fastest UK mobile network operator (it’s EE) when 4G was about to launch in this country (2012-13), so somehow I ended up getting terrible grades in GCSE ICT but accumulated irrelevant information about 3G/4G systems, protocols, bandwidths and who made those base stations.
Because of the security law I do not want to expand too much on why I’m anti-CCP (Chinese Communist Party) here, as this would require too much of an explanation. To put it simply, just as the Nazi’s have become the epitome of evil in the West, the CCP can be from my perspective, considered just as monstrous and frightening in nature.
I joined the conservative party in 2016, and I have met a wide variety of student Tories, “One-Nation”, “Neoliberal”, “Neoconservaitve”, you name it. I am writing this article because since this whole Huawei scandal, I have seen a lot of ignorance from the politics I was supporting, and I am eager to provide a more rational account on this matter.
Huawei – Lets Get To The Point:
Let’s quickly go through what this Huawei ban is:
- Buying new Huawei 5G equipment banned after 31 December 2020
- All Huawei equipment to be removed from 5G networks by the end of 2027
- The existing ban on Huawei from most sensitive ‘core’ parts of 5G network remains (that Huawei was only allowed to supply 35% in the “periphery of the network” which connect devices and equipment to mobile phone masts)
So, the way to look at the Huawei scandal is simple: The Chinese government and Huawei are no-doubt the ‘baddies’ here. But the incompetence of British establishment and Britain’s lacking in technology development should not be overlooked. But what I am seeing today is little self-reflection from the Brits, but instead an oversimplified ‘moaning’ about how much of an evil Huawei is.
Discussing the potential ties between Huawei and the CCP is quite frankly a complete waste of time. To debate whether this commercial company, founded in a country that follows a socialist doctrine, would cooperate, or even conspire, with the government goes without saying. Do not be deceived by the market economy in domestic China.
Let me remind everyone that China, to this day, still forces every child to join the “Young Pioneer of China” organisation. This institution can quite comfortably be paralleled to the Hitler Youth, or more directly to Soviet Russia’s Vladimir Lenin’sAll-Union Pioneer Organisation.
Let us not be naive and save our energy for more important stuff shall we? The critical issue here is that in Parliament MPs have spent precious time on this basic and almost irrelevant issue but are not discussing more pressing questions such as: “How can Britain build our own 5G technology within as short a time period as possible?”
If you are familiar with China or the global tech industry, successful East Asian tech giants such as Samsung and Huawei are both driven by the so-called “wolf culture”. There is no such word as ‘overworked‘ in their dictionary. Instead, employees are incredibly proud and believe that their work represents the competitiveness of their country on the world stage. With plenty of state subsidies, companies like Huawei and Samsung absolutely love market competition. Research & Development cost isn’t a concern at all, and always providing the best price to compete in the industry is no big deal for them either. In 2018, Huawei spent about as much on R&D as Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm combined. Unlike western democracies, it would be ridiculous to see Chinese government launching anti-monopoly hearings on Huawei.
Let’s also not forget that Huawei’s involvement in building the UK’s 3G and 4G infrastructure. Although they are now selling phones today, telecommunication network solution still remains as their main line of business.
Now, what does this mean for 5G then? Well, 5G can be deployed in two ways: To modify the existing 4G station and make it 5G (Non-Standalone, NSA), or to set up new ones (Standalone, SA). The NSA type is the easiest and the cheapest to do in the early deployment phase of 5G, and most carriers opted in for the Huawei 5G precisely because they have had so many 4G stations and it does not make any sense to ignore Huawei during the early rolling out of 5G. To ditch Huawei basically means to scrap all of their 4G stations, which would require an extraordinary bill.
How about just building standalone 5G stations without touching the 4G infrastructure? To begin with, SA’s are much more expensive to purchase, let alone the questions and red tapes on new site selection.
According to the latest research by Trend Force:
To those of you who hope to receive support from America – this is an unlikely solution. U.S. advantages in 5G are displayed through foundational technologies: chipsets (our smartphones’ CPUs and modems are made by Qualcomm), Operation Systems (Google and Apple), and IoT hardware solutions (Cisco and Qualcomm). As a matter of fact, after a series of M&As, there is no sizeable American company left that can offer a one-stop solution to 5G telecom infrastructure.
Even South Korea, with the world’s best internet infrastructure and acting as a global leader in semi-conductor business, cannot receive 5G connectivity without foreign company involvement. When the country launched its 5G in 2019, it relied on equipment provided by Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei at the same time. Given the recent tension between Britain and China, and the likely no-deal outlook for Brexit, the UK is running out of choices for 5G kit sellers. The time spent on signing new contracts with a potential new partner(s) and the transition period for removing existing Huawei kits could certainly lead to the UK’s 5G deployment to stumble.
Some contend that delaying 5G is still better than being spied by China. An opinion that is well supported by many Conservative MPs and their supporters.
At this point, I think it is important to stress the enormous benefit that an upgrade in network infrastructure could bring. East Asia has been leading the development and deployment of 3G and 4G for a very long time and Europe has simply just been playing catchup. Look at what South Korea has achieved, dominating the semi-conductor business, and controlling essential parts in smartphone creation. While China has created influential apps like TikTok that have dominated the West. Delaying 5G for another two years can only leave Britain in a more vulnerable position and leave it hanging for the next round of this technological revolution.
Brit’s Have The Wrong Attitude:
As national pride has increasingly become taboo due to Western nations connection with colonisation, we no longer see the sort of nationalism that is on display in companies such as Huawei and Samsung.
The West has embraced liberalism, cosmopolitism, and free-market principles when it comes to the development of technology. While this has created many positive changes, including the potential for greater levels of creativity, innovation, and stimulating competition, it has arguably backfired and hurt Britain more than it has helped her. Free markets and easy movement between countries have lost Britain some of its best talents to America & Europe. And while Brexit has enabled many to realise the importance of “taking back control” from the EU, we have still yet to question our unconditional confidence in America.
As a member of the Conservative party, I find it highly disappointing to see Tory MP’s in parliament making Churchillian speeches condemning Huawei, as if this alone will sort out the situation. While nationalistic speeches are all well and good, they must be backed up by something. You can be proud of Britain’s past victories, however, the UK should have its sights set firmly on the future if it is to not dither, blither and wither away.
The unpleasant truth is that the UK has lost nearly every technological battle since Alan Turing committed suicide. The UK Government must ask themselves: “why can’t we build the 5G kit ourselves?” What are our universities doing? Is there a problem with our political decision making and funding structure? Is our education system still fit for purpose? Are we too afraid of fixing the problem for the sake of protecting these so-called economic “traditions”?
There is now a meme on the Chinese internet saying that Britain’s attitude towards Huawei and 5G is the same as the establishment of the Qing Dynasty’s to that of British railway technology in the 1890s.
Qing Dynasty, 1860: “The camera will shoot out our souls! The train tracks will pollute out bloodline! OMG westerns are coming to build railways!”
The Liberal West, 2020: “5G & masks spread virus, resist it! Governments spying on us! OMG the East Asians are coming to build base stations!”
In short, I believe that the best method to deal with Huawei is the following:
- Stop debating pointless issues such as whether Huawei is communist-linked, a huge waste of parliamentary resource, save the time for more time-worthy questions.
- Rome isn’t built in a day. Revamping the education system is key to solve the shortage of real talents in creating breakthrough technology independently. We need an odyssean education.
- Sorting the education system could take years, even decades. In the meantime, Be pragmatic about the current situation. If an outright ban would have a negative impact overall, then the UK should either not go ahead with this plan or find an alternative solution.
The UK is currently leading the pharmaceutical development for a coronavirus vaccine, having this advantage could be very favourable for this country on the negotiation table, like with Japan. On the computational front, Mr Cummings also commented on one of the greatest British tech achievements:
Everything is connected. Do not think that delaying 5G for two years will make everything fine. Delaying a successful commercial launch of 5G will only hinder the creation of innovative ideas in this country.
While many are concerned with the cybersecurity of this country would the prevention of 5G technology really halt the threat and efforts of this authoritarian government? Huawei has already provided much of the 3G and 4G base stations. Are we naive enough to believe that accessing 5G base stations is the only gateway to discover MI6 (or any other intelligence agencies) secrets?
Consider the government has U-turned on so many things so many times, there might be further developments on the Huawei matter in the future. For Mr Cummings, Huawei simply is not the top priority. What is truly frightening to him is Britain’s inability to shape the future standards of communication protocols.
Removing Huawei kits in 7 years is still expensive but doable. But several Tory MPs still found it slow. In addition, as there is no ban placed on Huawei’s other businesses such as WiFi broadband equipment, UK carriers can still purchase from Huawei for another couple of years.
While I understand the stubbornness of many conservatives, who wish to maintain conventional military forces and structures, they must learn to see that 5G plays a crucial role in the future for Britain. It is the kind of risk that we must take. Blocking it on the ground of “national security” may bring some sense of safety in the short term, however, it will only establish a more fragile Britain when its authoritarian enemies have taken the technological lead.
My ultimate message is: Be proud of Great Britain but also remember to be rational about Britain’s current position. Haughtiness and contempt bring you to nowhere. In my view, Brexit, Boris, Cummings, MoD reviews, and Civil Service reforms, they are all about repositioning Britain and are a search for a new national strategy. Just like the One Nation Tories of the 19th century, the Conservatives today genuinely want to stay in power and change Britain for the better, let us be Bold and Pragmatic again.