The Trump Administration has had some success convincing allies to exclude Huawei from their 5G networks, but Germany has been the most significant holdout. It’s good news then that Berlin soon will address the security risk posed by the Chinese telecom giant.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet reportedly is preparing legislation that could phase out Huawei as a 5G supplier in Germany. While not an outright ban, the bill would create an approval process that likely would keep the Chinese firm out of German networks. Some of the law’s details may change but Washington appears confident. “We are seeing things moving in the right direction in Germany,” Keith Krach, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic affairs, said Wednesday. “There is really no future with Huawei.”
The European Commission warned in July that the Continent needed to move away from “dependency on high-risk suppliers,” a not-so-subtle reference to Huawei. The United Kingdom announced a ban the same month, and France enacted regulations to discourage telecom firms from using Huawei gear. A comprehensive European Union ban would be ideal, but others are likely to follow Germany anyway.
The U.S.-led campaign isn’t about promoting American companies, as Sweden’s
will be the biggest winners of Huawei’s exclusion from Europe. The real concern is national security. Huawei has longstanding ties to the People’s Liberation Army, and no Chinese company is independent under Communist Party rule.
Mrs. Merkel dragged her feet over economic concerns. China is Germany’s largest trading partner, and Chinese state subsidies make Huawei equipment notably cheaper. But Mrs. Merkel is finally moving as she faced opposition from across the German political spectrum and within her own party.
The Chinese government may retaliate against German companies doing business in China. But that would only validate Berlin’s decision not to trust Beijing.
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Appeared in the October 3, 2020, print edition.