Donald Trump is following Australia’s lead as the White House prepares to ban China from working on its 5G mobile network.
The White House is expected to make the announcement in coming months that will mirror Canberra’s recent move to ban all Chinese telecom companies from being involved in the new mobile network, The Australian reported.
Mr Trump praised Australia’s stance on the issue in his first phone call conversation with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
But the move — expected to be announced before Christmas — will no doubt anger Beijing, which has staunchly denied using its telco companies to spy on other countries.
It’s unlikely the ban will mention China by name, but will nonetheless be designed to keep the Communist Party at bay.
WHY AUSTRALIA BLOCKED HUAWEI IN THE FIRST PLACE
Huawei is the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, behind only Apple and Samsung.
In the final days of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, the Chinese-owned telecom giant was blocked from rolling out Australia’s 5G network due to security concerns.
The Australian federal government said the involvement of any companies “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law” presented too much of a risk.
As a Chinese company, Huawei — which was founded by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei — is obliged to comply with government demands and could be compelled to gather intelligence on its behalf.
That was the concern at the heart of the decision to block the company from Australia’s 5G rollout.
“While we are protected as far as possible by current security controls, the new network, with its increased complexity, would render these current protections ineffective in 5G,” the Australian government said in a statement in August.
“The decision banning 5G by Chinese companies is a political decision and a sad obstacle on co-operation between Australia and Chinese companies,” China’s state media People’s Daily newspaper said in response.
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY ABOUT HUAWEI?
Earlier this year, Australian Strategic Policy Institute cybersecurity expert Tom Uren told news.com.au it would have been impossible to employ the company without some degree of risk.
“The main concern is that they could covertly intercept our communications, and get access to our devices — computers, phones, anything with a signal,” Mr Uren told news.com.au.
He said being on the network would give them the opportunity to hack our private data, and feed this back to the Chinese government.
“There’s been a number of US reports documenting how the People’s Liberation Army has collaborated with companies to get valuable negotiation information, or get intellectual property.”
Nigel Phair, the director of the Canberra-based Centre for Internet Safety echoed those concerns.
Speaking to news.com.au back in January, he said: “The reality is in the modern day of cyber security and espionage, you can never be too careful. Governments need to approach such issues from a risk management perspective … I don’t think you can be too cautious.”
That said, there is no hard evidence Huawei has spied on us with the purpose of relaying that information back to the Chinese government.
Huawei has sought to invalidate security concerns. Addressing the National Press Club back in June, the company’s Australian chairman John Lord said it would keep Beijing from accessing data “to the best of our ability”.
The structure would be “safe to the best of our ability and it is secure,” Mr Lord said.
He also said it was a myth that Huawei was required to assist Chinese intelligence agencies.
“We obey the laws in every country in which we operate in, over 170. In Australia, we follow Australian laws,” Mr Lord said.
“To do otherwise in any one country would be corporate suicide.”
By Gavin Fernand