Can the United Kingdom Manage Not to Anger Both America and China Over Huawei?

Stratfor Worldview

What Happened

London is attempting to compromise between its trade and security interests with the United States and its ability to compete technologically in the years to come. The British government has decided to grant Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies a limited role in the development of its 5G network. Despite labeling it a "high-risk vendor" and barring the company from operating near high-risk sites, such as nuclear facilities and military sites, London will allow Huawei to develop the non-core elements of the network.

According to a British government source, London had few alternatives to Huawei, and excluding the company would have set back the development of the United Kingdom's 5G infrastructure by several years and substantially increased associated costs. The decision came despite U.S. pressure on the British government to exclude the company from its 5G development over national security concerns and threats that Washington might limit its intelligence-sharing. However, London reaffirmed that the decision won't affect how the United Kingdom shares sensitive information with its allies.

Why It Matters

With this decision, the United Kingdom is attempting to strike a careful balance between U.S. pressure to exclude Huawei in the development of its 5G network and its desire to include a company that can provide the necessary expertise at an affordable price. However, concerns remain over how the United Kingdom intends to enforce the limits it will impose on Huawei and how the company can be prevented from gaining access to sensitive infrastructure and data that can be exploited for industrial espionage and intelligence.

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