Boris Johnson Must Decide Between Washington And Beijing

Authored by Con Coughlin via The Gatestone Institute,

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to allow the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei access to Britain's new 5G network has placed unnecessary strain on the transatlantic alliance at a time when it needs to show a united front against Beijing's global ambitions.

Mr Johnson's decision to allow Huawei to build parts of the 5G network has been taken in the face of fierce opposition from the Trump administration, which regards the Chinese company a security risk because of its historic links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Donald Trump personally called Mr Johnson to urge the British prime minister not to allow Huawei continued access to Britain's 5G infrastructure, warning that to do so risked causing a split in transatlantic relations, and might raise questions about Britain's continued involvement in the elite Five Eyes intelligence-gathering alliance that London has shared with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand since the end of World War Two.

Instead, following a meeting of Britain's National Security Council, Mr Johnson announced that Huawei would be allowed to continue working on the development of the 5G infrastructure, albeit with strict conditions being applied on the company's ability to access those parts of the network linked to Britain's military, nuclear and intelligence installations.

Mr Johnson has sought to reassure Washington by offering to work closely with the US to develop 5G technology that would "break the dominance" of Huawei, with the aim of ultimately squeezing the Chinese giant out of Britain's infrastructure.

The depth of Washington's disappointment with the British decision, however, was reflected in comments made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who, prior to arriving in London for a two-day visit, said there was still time for Mr Johnson to "relook" at the decision.

American objections about allowing Huawei access to sensitive communications networks in the West stem from ongoing concerns about the company's ties to the CCP, as well as China's People's Liberation Army.

Huawei has been accused of developing sophisticated surveillance technology that has been used in China's Xinjiang province as part of Beijing's crackdown against the country's oppressed Uighur Muslim minority.

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs are reported to have been detained in makeshift prison camps and subjected to "re-education" programmes by the Chinese government.

Concerns over Huawei's activities have already persuaded a number of countries, such as India, New Zealand and Australia, to join the US in banning the Chinese firm from their 5G networks. Indeed, Washington's concerns over Huawei mean the company's mobile phones are not even allowed onto American military bases.

Mr Johnson's decision, therefore, will be regarded as a victory for Beijing, and a vindication of its claims that Washington's campaign against Huawei is driven more by commercial rivalry than genuine concerns about any security threat the firm might pose.

It is for this reason that Mr Johnson would be well-advised to heed Mr Pompeo's advice and reconsider allowing Huawei access to Britain's telecoms systems, irrespective of the restrictions the British authorities claim they will impose on the firm's access to sensitive installations.

In an age when the foremost challenge of the Western democracies is to defend their interests against Beijing's long-term goal of achieving global dominance, it is vital that they present a united front against the Chinese threat.

Mr Johnson needs to understand that Britain's interests are best served by maintaining strong ties with Washington, rather than by indulging in dubious business deals with Beijing.