In the face of Huawei’s growing worldwide 5G footprint, the U.S. government — and in particular the Trump administration — remains steadfastly opposed to the Chinese tech company’s ascendancy. The White House has not wavered in its view that Huawei poses a major security threat to any country that allows it to operate 5G within its borders.
In May 2019, the tech giant was added to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List in response to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump which effectively banned Huawei from operating in American communications networks. Since then, American resolve against Huawei has only strengthened. The Trump administration’s position is rooted in fears that Huawei is working in accordance with the Chinese government to install “back doors” in company technology that will allow China to spy on foreign states.
In recent months, the U.S. has made a concerted effort to convince allies in Europe and around the world not to adopt Huawei 5G. For example, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that the U.S. “won’t be able to share information” with countries that place Huawei equipment in their “critical information systems.” This sentiment has been echoed by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and Communications Robert Strayer. Strayer has warned that countries adopting Huawei 5G “will jeopardize our ability to share information at the highest levels” as it could allow China to “undermine the critical infrastructure riding on 5G networks as well as exfiltrate sensitive data.” Nonetheless, the corporation has finalized contracts with 91 worldwide communications operators, 47 of which are European — Spain’s Telefonica, Switzerland’s Sunrise, the Netherlands’ KPN, and more.
Additionally, the UK’s decision in late January to grant Huawei a limited position in British 5G networks has drawn the ire of current and former U.S. government officials at all levels. Despite British assurances, the Trump administration has voiced disappointment with the choice, as has Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) — also of the Senate Intelligence Committee — has stated, “I fear London has freed itself from Brussels only to cede sovereignty to Beijing.” Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has argued Britain’s adoption of Huawei 5G represents a “strategic defeat” for the U.S.
Still, the U.S. is joined in rejecting Huawei 5G networks by countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam — all of whom fear allowing Huawei even a small role in their nation’s 5G technology will lead to grave consequences in the future.
Though, the U.S. will continue to push back at Huawei’s increasing global 5G dominance, it will not be an easy task. This is because there are no viable American 5G alternatives to Huawei. Huawei’s chief non-Chinese competitors include Finland’s Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson, and South Korea’s Samsung — of which the former two have been suggested for American government purchase by U.S. Attorney General William Barr. The next step Trump plans to take is holding a 5G summit with world tech leaders, which he hopes will help combat Huawei’s rise.