UK's Huawei decision could be lost chance, warns ambassador

By Wang Mingjie in London |
Updated: July 21, 2020

China's ambassador to the United Kingdom said the decision to remove the Chinese technology company Huawei from Britain's 5G infrastructure was a "dark day for the United Kingdom", and could be a missed opportunity for the UK to lead in the sector.

The British government last week announced it would ban UK mobile providers from purchasing new Huawei 5G equipment after the end of 2020 and asked telecom operators to remove all the Chinese company's 5G kit from their networks by 2027.

Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said the UK decision on Huawei is a mistake and that the British government would struggle to achieve its ambitious plan to have a full coverage 5G network by 2025.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Liu said: "This is a very bad decision. This is a dark day for Huawei. It's a dark day for China-UK relations. It's an even darker day for the United Kingdom, because you will miss the opportunity to be a leading country."

While some fear a so-called national security risk posed by the Chinese technology giant with its 5G network, Liu said there is no hard, solid evidence to suggest Huawei technology would be a threat to the UK.

"They've been here for 20 years. They have made a huge contribution not only to the telecom industry of this country. They have fulfilled their corporate responsibility. They have helped the UK to develop," Liu said.

The British government has pledged to make the UK completely 5G and full-fibre connected by 2025, and Liu said Huawei can help to deliver that "but now it seems to me the UK just kicks them out and, to use the media words, to purge them under the pressure from the United States."

During the interview, the ambassador echoed a point made by leading British scholar and sinologist Martin Jacques, author of the book When China Rules the World, and who wrote in a recent tweet "history turns full circle".

"In 1793 Chinese Emperor Qianlong told the British King: 'We don't have the slightest need of your country's manufactures.' So marked the start of China's 150 year decline. In 2020 UK tells China that it has no need of China's latest technology," Jacques tweeted.

Liu said: "So I do not know what will happen in the next 150 years."

When asked whether the Chinese government plans to retaliate on British companies operating in China, Liu said: "We do not want to politicize the economy. That is wrong. It's wrong for the United Kingdom to discriminate Chinese companies because of pressure from the United States."

The ambassador urged the British government to demonstrate independence in its own policy.

"If the UK government goes as far as to impose sanctions on any individual in China, China will certainly make resolute response to it … I do not want to see this tit for tat between China and the US happen in China-UK relations. I think the UK should have its own independent foreign policy rather than to dance to the tune of Americans, like what happened to Huawei," Liu said.

Liu refuted the notion that China has become "so aggressive" recently.

"That's totally wrong. China has not changed. It's the Western countries headed by the United States. They started this so-called 'new cold war' on China. They have this sanction. They have this smearing and name-calling.

"Take what happened with this coronavirus. They still keep calling it 'China virus' and 'Wuhan virus'. It's totally wrong, but we have to make a response. We do not provoke. But once we were provoked, we have to make response," he said.