Friday 26 April 2019 9:00 am

DEBATE: Should we be concerned about Chinese telecoms giant Huawei helping to build UK infrastructure?

Should we be concerned about Chinese telecoms giant Huawei helping to build UK infrastructure?

Dr John Hemmings, director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, says YES.

Huawei’s ownership structure and state-subsidies make it – in effect – a virtual state-owned enterprise with a credit line of £30bn with the China Development Bank (a state bank).

According to the CIA, it is part-funded by Chinese intelligence, and its chair-woman between 1999 and 2018, Sun Yafang, was an intelligence official.

According to Brian Shields, cyber security adviser at the now bankrupt Canadian telecom Nortel, partnering with Huawei broke the Canadian firm, as Chinese hackers cleaned it out of intellectual property and outbid it.

Between 2012 and 2017, the Africa Union was hacked every night as sensitive data was downloaded to servers in China. Huawei was its ICT infrastructure provider.

Huawei provides ICT services to the security forces in Xinjiang, meaning that it is implicit in the surveillance and detentions of the Uighur. The National Cyber Security Centre has strongly criticised its engineering. It is not safe to use it with regards to UK infrastructure.

Read more: Inside Huawei: Spies, spin and billions at stake

David Blair, global chief executive of brand and retail consultancy FITCH, says NO.

We should approach all new business arrangements with caution and conduct our due diligence. Huawei is no exception, especially right now.

However, the Chinese tech giant is the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, with technology that is often seen as more advanced than many competitors. The business is already heavily invested in the UK, with offices across the country.

What concerns me is that there seems to be a culture among western governments of fearmongering about China, which potentially runs the risk of slowing our development as a nation.

We should be focused on encouraging progress, innovation and growth in the UK, and if we’re to shape Britain into a global economic powerhouse, we need to provide a strong infrastructure for our future-thinking businesses to operate in.

This proposed decision to allow Huawei to help build our 5G network is a significant one, and we should be wary of missing out on such opportunities for the wrong reasons.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.