We would never let China make our RAF jets, so why let them build our 5G network? – The Sun

WHO hasn’t been seduced by the sight of a Huawei phone in a High Street store?

This is a company that has brought us the technology of an iPhone but at a fraction of the cost.

I am no protectionist and I don’t fear the Chinese.

When it comes to selling us consumer goods, I am more than happy to welcome China’s companies into the country to compete with British, European or US-made products.

But it is a very different matter when it comes to allowing a Chinese company to build Britain’s next- generation broadband network — with all the security issues that raises.

Unbelievably, the Government is seriously considering doing just this.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister — who is due to make a decision next month on whether to award Huawei a contract to build parts of Britain’s 5G network — indicated that he is inclined to give the company the nod.

Critics, he said, needed to suggest which other company ought to be allowed to do the work.

I am sorry if I am a little ignorant on this point. While I have bought several mobile phones, I have never gone shopping for an entire telecoms network.

But surely there must be other potential contractors. Don’t we have a telecoms industry of our own?

It doesn’t say much for the Government’s privatisation of BT if it is not in the running for this sort of work.

What about our own Vodafone, which I thought was one of the world leaders in mobile phone technology?

Even if depriving Huawei of the work meant we had to wait a little longer or pay a little extra to download a movie to our phones, that would surely be a reasonable price to pay for protecting national security.

It doesn’t say much for the Government’s privatisation of BT if it is not in the running for this sort of work.

And national security policy really is at stake.

Yesterday the US reaffirmed that allowing Huawei to build our 5G network — even parts of it which are deemed to be low- risk — would be “madness” and could compromise the willingness of the US to share vital intelligence with Britain in future.

This didn’t come in one of Donald Trump’s notorious 3am tweets but from officials working for Matt Pottinger, the US deputy national security adviser, and Robert Blair, special representative for international telecommunications policy.


That they took the trouble to visit London to warn of the dangers we could be getting ourselves into ought to be seen as a red flag on Huawei’s involvement in our 5G network.

Surely, the importance of being able to share intelligence with our most important ally should rank above pure considerations of cost.

Australia has already blocked the Chinese firm from its 5G network.

Yet here, the head of MI5 Sir Andrew Parker said he had “no reason” to think Britain’s intelligence partnership with the US would suffer if involvement from the Chinese firm was given the green light.

But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace underlined at the weekend that the US administration has threatened to cut off some intelligence if Britain approves Huawei’s involvement in 5G.

He said: “Those things will be taken into account when the Government collectively decides to make a decision on it.”

Our own Government — as it has been doing since Theresa May’s day — insists that only parts of the 5G contract would be awarded to Huawei.

It would not be allowed to work on security-critical areas.

But that isn’t good enough. Such is the complexity of modern telecommunications networks that it would be impossible to be sure that systems installed in one part of the network were not enabling data to be obtained from another.


Whoever designs and builds a telecommunications system gains the power to interfere with it, or even switch it off, should it feel inclined.

Of course, with modern communications a huge amount of damage can be done from afar.

Even if we are confident our broadband network is secure now, we can’t be certain that would remain the case.

A company which installs a telecommunications network will necessarily continue to be involved in maintaining and upgrading the network it had designed and installed.

We have to be absolutely sure the network is not being used for some underhand purpose.

Huawei denies that it is controlled by the Chinese state, and has threatened to sue commentators in France whom it alleges have made that claim.

But the precise relationship between Huawei and the Chinese state is hardly the point.

What is certain is that China is not a democracy and there is always going to be a security issue when it comes to involving its industrial giants in sensitive work here.

We would not allow a Chinese company, say, to build fighter jets for the RAF or to construct our radar defence system.

This kind of work is rightly the preserve of contractors on whom we can rely totally, even in times of international conflict.

Such is the importance of telecommunications in military and civil defence that we now have to think of mobile networks in the same light.


The Government has been warning for years that cyber warfare is the big coming threat.

In 2015 it published a Strategic Defence Review which defined cyber attack as a “Tier One” threat alongside terrorism.

Last November, the US and Taiwanese held a joint exercise in fending off a major cyber attack on Taiwan.

At the time the Taiwanese Cyber Security Agency said it was the subject of an astonishing 30million cyber attacks every month, half of which came from the Chinese mainland.

So why, then, is our own Government even considering commissioning a Chinese company to install a telecommunications network?



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Of course, Boris Johnson is right to make it clear he is not Donald Trump’s poodle.

We don’t have to take notice of everything the Americans say, on defence, trade or anything else.

But when it comes to our closest ally warning us that it might not want to share intelligence with us in future if we let a Chinese company build our 5G network, we very much do need to take notice.

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