With Trump gone, Huawei wants the UK should rethink its 5G ban
The hard-fought US Presidential election recently came to a close, producing Democrat Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. Despite President Trump’s best efforts to sully the election results, the divisive premier’s removal is now all but certain, but what does this changing of the guard mean for the US’ foreign policy towards China, and Huawei in particular?
Prior to the election results, there had been much speculation as to what would happen to Huawei if Biden were to secure the presidency. The removal of Donald Trump, perhaps the company’s most vocal opponent, can only be a good thing for Huawei, with Huawei hoping for a “reset” in relations, according to Paul Scanlan, chief technology officer at Huawei Carrier Business Group.
Today, Huawei Vice Preident Victor Zhang (pictured) told the Guardian that Biden’s election offers the UK an opportunity to rethink its phase out of Huawei equipment by 2027, without the overwhelming pressure from the Trump administration. He argues that Huawei’s exclusion will exacerbate the north-south divide, denying those in the North the connectivity they need to reach economic parity with the South.
“The decision [to phase out Huawei] is going to have a huge economic impact on the UK,” said Zhang. “The UK wants to see a balance of investment between London, the south-east, the Midlands and the north of England. World-class connectivity is crucial to this objective, and without that it is very difficult to close the gap in the economic imbalance in the UK.”
Zhang’s went on to argue that Huawei’s exclusion would result in a three-year delay to the UK’s 5G rollout, which in turn would result in a £18.2 billion economic loss, according to a study by Assembly Research.
While this claimed delay and its related expense are nothing new for Huawei, this particular focus on the north-south divide represents a new strategic approach to the issue of their national ban. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the announcement comes at a time when PM Boris Johnson is set to meet with the Northern Research Group, a Conservative MP lobbying group with the stated goal of boosting the prosperity of the UK’s North.
While Zhang’s comments seems to be in line with those that view Trump’s departure as a boon for Huawei, others are less optimistic about the prospects of a widespread policy reversal. Even with Donald Trump no longer in the picture, there remains strong anti-Huawei sentiment within the US government; Biden himself has previously taken a tough stance on China and was notably in favour of banning Huawei’s network equipment. Even with a more measured stance towards China and Huawei, the contentious nature of the issue within the Biden administration will likely mean that progress is slow at best.
With easing the strain of the pandemic being Biden’s primary focus, it seems unlikely that the US’ stance towards China and Huawei will change radically in the near future, though interactions between the parties will likely be noticeably smoother. Nonetheless, whether a perceived softening of the US position against Huawei will impact the UK’s policy decisions remains to be seen.
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