Huawei 5G Innovation and Experience Center in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]
One of the most debated issues related to the trade war between the US and China has been technology and innovation, especially on fifth-generation networks (5G). The technology is critical because it brings faster speed to move more data, more capacity and more availability to connect many devices at the same time (Internet of Things).
In the 21st century, where big data is considered the new oil, a country can reach more economic growth and power if it can control a great amount of information. It is also a necessary element for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and future infrastructures, such as internet-connected devices powering smart cities, virtual reality (VR) and driverless cars.
Most technologists have affirmed that a country that owns 5G is going to own many of the innovations and will be able to set the standard for the rest of the world.
In this context, over the last few years, the United States has come to realize that it is no longer in a position of technological supremacy. Constantly under pressure, the US has been trying to develop its own 5G network and AI systems while attempting to contain China's expansion and growth by lobbying allied countries to ban the access to Chinese tech companies.
According to the Financial Times, the UK government has just announced on January 28 that it will allow Huawei to contribute to the expansion of its 5G infrastructure, albeit with a restriction to non-core parts of the network and with a cap to 35 percent on Huawei's share of the market.
The British government made the decision in the interest of its citizens, granting them access to a tech company that offers widely recognized, good products and at a very attractive price. Putting a restriction on Huawei would have meant narrowing the 5G competitive landscape to Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia and creating a duopoly with more expensive products as compared to a healthy market economy where companies normally win customers by offering the best product at the best price.
The decision of the UK government makes even more sense considering that three out of four of the UK's big carriers, for example, EE, Vodafone and Three, have already been using Huawei in their networks and being forced to change provider would have meant an extra cost for the companies in terms of replacing the technology.
The United States' continuous pressing of European allied countries clearly represents a violation of sovereignty and a distortion of market-based economies when the US claims that Huawei poses a national security risk because the Chinese government can utilize its equipment for espionage.
Innovation represents an investment in improving people's standard of living. Britain is currently in a difficult spot because of Brexit. On the one hand, losing free access to the nearby European market puts pressure on the British government to improve business relationships with other regions in the world, and China is definitely a country to be considered for its strategic importance on the global stage. However, on the other hand, the UK wants to preserve its long and special relationship with the United States.
The term "special relationship" was first used in 1946 by Winston Churchill when the US and the UK went through World War II together. Since then, it has developed in the fields of commerce, culture and shared military operations. Things are modifying under Donald Trump's leadership with a change in the rules of diplomacy that are putting this special relationship at serious risk.
The other European countries are currently experiencing the same dilemma regarding granting access to their own 5G network, as major countries, such as Italy and Germany, use Huawei.
The UK government's decision could certainly give other European countries an incentive to grant access to Huawei, and this could end up in creating some diplomatic issues with the United States.
The decision represents good news for China, as Huawei has received approval for operation in an important market, which indicates that the company offers all the necessary guarantees for an advanced, secure and cost-effective telecom infrastructure.
For the United States, the decision represents a sign that its efforts to lobby allied countries do not work and that if this strategy hasn't worked with the UK, considering the special relationship between them, it is highly likely that it won't work with the other European countries.