With the potential of enabling not only significant economic growth but also the innovation of critical technologies in various fields, both the US and China view 5G as one of the key influencing factors in the “great power competition”. While the US believes that “the race to 5G is a race America must win”, China views it as representing the major leapfrog of its position in ICTs by describing the progress as “1G behind, 2G follow, 3G breakthrough, 4G synchronization, 5G leading”. Differently from competition in other traditional areas, companies rather than governments – the Chinese company Huawei as the most noticeable one – have played a significant role and become the pawns of the geopolitical game. Despite the obvious benefits such as lower costs and higher efficiency in using Huawei’s products, the company is now under huge pressure of being excluded from 5G networks by more and more Western economies – especially following Britain’s reversal of its decision.
All the declared concerns supporting the ban of Huawei, including the risks of surveillance and data collection and the potential vulnerabilities to cyberattacks or installed kill switches, sound reasonable at first. However, it is fair to say that these are inherent risks embedded in all ICT products. Why is Huawei so alarming, then? The frequently heard answer is that Huawei has much closer relations with the Chinse government than the usual ones, with three main accusations. Are they convincing enough?