The West needs to understand that the challenge of China’s technological revolution runs much deeper than Huawei Technologies Co’s (華為) row with the US over intellectual property theft and state espionage, one of Britain’s top spies said.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecommunication equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the US told allies not to use its technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spy operations.
Jeremy Fleming, director of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said the incredible rate of technological change was unleashing unprecedented uncertainty, instability and risk.
“The strategic challenge of China’s place in the era of globalized technology is much bigger than just one telecommunications equipment company,” he said in Singapore.
“It’s a first order strategic challenge for us all,” he said. “We have to understand the opportunities and threats from China’s technological offer.”
GCHQ is Britain’s main eavesdropping agency and has a close relationship with the US National Security Agency as well as with the eavesdropping agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called “Five Eyes.”
In what some have compared to the Cold War arms race, the US is worried that 5G dominance would give any global competitor such as China an advantage Washington is not ready to accept.
“5G is going to be one of the most important and impactful technologies of this or any era,” Fleming said, adding that he wanted a diverse supplier market.
“A market consolidated to such an extent that there are only a tiny number of viable options will not make for good cyber security. That’s regardless of whether those options are Western, Chinese, or from somewhere else,” Fleming said.
A global battle between the US and Huawei over allegations that it is a cybersecurity risk overshadowed Monday’s opening of the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona, Spain, the focus of which is new 5G networks due to roll out in the coming years.
The US government dispatched a big delegation to press its case with telecom executives and government officials that they should not use Huawei as a supplier.
In a fresh salvo, 11 US senators on Monday called for the federal government to ban solar power inverters — advanced control systems — made by Huawei, saying they pose a national security threat to US energy infrastructure.
Additional reporting by AP
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