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‘Banning Huawei discriminatory and protectionist,’ China tells France

The Chinese embassy in France has said that if the country wants to impose constraints on Huawei, it should do so based on the reality of facts, because treating Huawei differently would mean blatant discrimination and disguided protectionism. “This goes against the principles of a market economy and free trade,” it added. Even if France wants to exclude Huawei for security reasons, it should do so under a transparent criteria, China said.

The embassy issued the statement following media reports that France was trying to restrict Huawei from developing its 5G network, and said that it was “deeply shocked and concerned”. This was first reported by Bloomberg.

A veiled threat to European companies? The statement also had a veiled threat to Huawei’s European competitors — Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson: The country said that it has always treated Nokia and Ericsson fairly and has even allowed them to deploy 5G networks in China. “We do not want to see the development of European companies in the Chinese market affected because of the discrimination and protectionism of France and other European countries towards Huawei,” the statement read.

Ready to sign ‘no backdoor’ pact: Huawei’s 5G equipment is reliable and has never presented any technical or security risk, nor has it left any “back door,” China said. It added that Huawei is ready to sign “no backdoor” agreements with France and other partner countries — a promise it has also made to India. China’s statement comes weeks after France’s state-controlled telco Orange decided to exclude Huawei from building the country’s 5G network, and chose Nokia and Ericsson instead.

EU recommended restricting and not banning Huawei: Last month, the European Union told member states that they can use 5G equipment from high-risk vendors, such as Huawei, although there will have to be strict regulations in place to counter any potential national security threat. The Commission said that countries in the bloc should adopt a risk mitigating approach while using 5G equipment from high risk vendors. This announcement had come after the UK decided to allow Huawei to develop non core parts of its 5G network.

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The US sees Huawei as an espionage threat: However, the US has been extremely wary of Huawei’s alleged close relationship with the Chinese government, and it sees the company as an espionage threat. It has been engaging with countries around the world, including India, urging them to not allow Huawei in their 5G network. In December 2019, the country had warned India of the “risks” posed by Chinese-made networks, to the “treasured freedoms”. A few months before that, it had also written to the Ministry of External Affairs, “warning” India that Indian companies that supply American-origin products could face severe punishment. Although, with the Chinese administration openly batting for Huawei’s cause, it remains to be seen how it goes down with the US. Also, India has decided to allow Huawei from participating in its 5G field trials.

In May 2019, the US Commerce Department had added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its ‘Entity List’, which prevented the company from buying components from US companies without the government’s approval. The enormity of the decision soon became clear when Google cancelled Huawei’s Android licence, and chipmakers Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom and Xilinx suspended shipments to the Chinese company.

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