LONDON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Britain on Wednesday it needed to change its attitude towards China and telecoms company Huawei, casting the world’s second largest economy as a threat to the West similar to that once posed by the Soviet Union.
Pompeo questioned the attitude of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government towards Beijing and goaded London by saying that the late former British leader Margaret Thatcher, who was known as the Iron Lady, would have taken a much firmer line with China.
He brought a tough message to Britain, which agreed last month to allow China’s Huawei Technologies a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network.
“Now is not the time for either of us to go wobbly,” Pompeo said in a speech of the so-called special relationship, paraphrasing what Thatcher once famously told late US President George H.W. Bush.
“In China, we face a new kind of challenge; an authoritarian regime that’s integrated economically into the West in ways that the Soviet Union never was,” Pompeo said.
The United States has told allies not to use Huawei’s technology to build new 5G networks because of concerns it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying, an accusation the firm has denied. Britain has indicated it would allow the company a restricted role.
“Ask yourself: would the Iron Lady be silent when China violates the sovereignty of nations through corruption or coercion? Would she allow China to control the internet of the future?” Pompeo said.
“Insufficient security will impede the United States’ ability to share certain information within trusted networks. This is just what China wants to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs.”
Pompeo said China steals sensitive intellectual property and sensitive commercial data in Europe, Asia, and the United States, and singled out Huawei.
“The Chinese government can rightfully demand access to data flowing through Huawei and ZTE systems. Why would anyone grant such power to a regime that has already grossly violated cyberspace?” he asked.
“We know 5G is a sovereign decision but it must be made with the broader strategic context in mind,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019