How China is quietly cutting out American tech

32 min listen

Last week, President Joe Biden finally signed into law a bill that would take TikTok off app stores in the US, eventually rendering the app obsolete there. This is not the end of the saga, as TikTok has vowed to take legal action. In the US, the drive to decouple from Chinese tech continues to rumble on. In this episode, we’ll be taking a look at the reverse trend – the Chinese decoupling from American tech. It’s a story that tends to go under the radar in light of bans and divestments from the US, but you might be surprised at how much China is cutting out American tech too

BBC still taking money from sanctioned Huawei

Things are tough these days at the BBC: stars are leaving, budgets are tight and the licence fee future looking uncertain. Still, in their desperation to plug some holes, it seems the Beeb has developed some questionable new corporate partnerships. One of them is with Huawei, the Chinese tech giant which was sanctioned by the US in 2019 and barred from the UK’s 5G network in 2020 over security concerns. Since then, the controversial company has been alleged to have aided the Chinese authorities in creating surveillance technology that targets the country’s Uyghur minority population. But all that’s not enough to deter the BBC, which is still taking Huawei’s money

Revealed: Huawei’s Oxbridge millions

British universities have received twice as much funding from Huawei as previous estimates suggest, according to new figures obtained by The Spectator. Freedom of Information requests sent by Steerpike show that a further £28.7 million has been received from the Chinese tech giant by nine leading UK universities, on top of the sums identified in a landmark report by the China Research Group in June. By far the biggest recipient of donations and research grants is Cambridge University which has taken £25.7 million from Huawei alone since 2016. Huawei has been banned from participating in Britain’s 5G network from 2027 amid security concerns. Last year MPs on the Commons Defence Select Committee claimed in a

The China challenge has no precedent

The US has never been more worried by the rise of China than it is today. In my Times column today, I mention a new book by Joe Biden’s China director on the National Security Council which sets out why ‘China now poses a challenge unlike any the US has ever faced’. Rush Doshi notes that American hegemony has been based, in considerable part, on its economic might. In the second world war, Germany and Japan combined did not reach 60 per cent of US GDP. Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union failed to hit this mark. Yet, China passed it seven years ago. The book sets out how China is attempting

Who can take on China in the tech arms race?

The government’s decision to water down new foreign investment rules designed to protect national security casts serious doubt about its resolve to keep China out of the most sensitive parts of the British economy. Raising the threshold above which an overseas stake must be examined from 15 per cent to 25 per cent will sharply reduce the number of deals facing scrutiny. The amendment to the National Security and Investment Bill, now wending its way through parliament, was presented by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as necessary to show Britain is still ‘open for business’. It follows intense lobbying by the Confederation of British Industry, which fears the new rules will

How Britain will counter China’s wolf-warrior diplomacy

The most significant and lasting change brought about by Covid is that it has woken the West up to the threat posed by Communist China. The fact that the initial severity of the outbreak was covered up by Chinese Communist party authorities did not surprise western governments. It was Beijing’s ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ as the virus raged round the globe that made them grasp the true nature of President Xi’s China. In March, the UK government was taken aback by the extreme misinformation promoted by the CCP to try to suggest that the US military was somehow to blame for the emergence of the virus. The shortages of personal protective

Zoom falling: has the video-call novelty worn off?

A takeover battle for BT would bring much-needed excitement to the City — as well as a major political row. The privatised telecoms giant that rarely pleases its customers and regulators has seen its shares fall by four-fifths since late 2015. While many other tech-related stocks have rebounded, BT’s price is still down where it was when the market plunged in February — lockdown having interfered with BT Openreach’s broadband installation programme, slashed new orders from business customers and even knocked out the fixtures that might have been shown on BT Sport’s television channels. On top of all that, there’s a gaping hole in the pension fund. No wonder BT’s

Why do we still struggle to see Xi’s China as a threat?

For years Westminster has been obsessing over Russian interference in Britain. Yet while we fret over oligarchs and social-media bots, the most dangerous assault on our democracy and security goes not just unchallenged, but largely unnoticed. Beijing is richer and more sophisticated than Moscow on every level, and its influence more prevalent across British society. But even as we witness events in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, we still struggle to see China as a threat to our way of life. This blind spot means China has been able quietly to amass huge amounts of influence with little pushback. Just look at how Huawei settled itself in our communications infrastructure and

Has France been naive in its handling of Huawei?

The controversy over the UK’s use of Huawei equipment in its 5G network has not abated, despite the government’s announcement that the Chinese manufacturer’s equipment will be stripped from the network by 2027. Conservative MPs continue to be unsatisfied by this half-way house, claiming that Britain will remain vulnerable to ‘back-door’ espionage by the Chinese state. They carry on threatening the government with an embarrassing, albeit symbolic, rebellion. But it is no secret that the real pressure to abandon Huawei equipment comes principally, and forcefully, from the UK’s ‘Five Eyes’ partners. The ‘Five Eyes’ network dates back to the Second World War and comprises the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and

Portrait of the week: Vaccine hopes, the Russia report and a knighthood for Captain Tom

Home A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, tested on 1,077 people, was found to induce antibodies and T-cells that could fight the virus. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he hoped for a ‘significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas’. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 19 July, total deaths from Covid-19 stood at 45,273, with a seven-day average of 68 deaths a day. But Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University discovered that anyone who had tested positive for coronavirus but died later of another cause was included in the Public Health England figures. The Queen knighted Captain Sir

The ruthlessness of Huawei

Huawei’s 5G path is blocked. In a few months’ time, Huawei may no longer see the point of paying six-figure sums to Lord B and his attendant knights,’ I wrote in this space on 20 June. I underrated its ruthlessness. It took only a few weeks. Lord Browne, its UK chairman, is out. Sir Ken Olisa has followed.  How much longer for the arch-Remainers Sir Andrew Cahn, who thinks Huawei is ‘the John Lewis of China’, and the ex-CBI Sir Mike Rake, who joined as recently as April? All this could have been avoided if, before taking the six-figure salary, these gentlemen had asked: ‘Who ultimately controls this company’s destiny?’

Why did we not ban Huawei earlier?

‘Just rejoice’, as Mrs Thatcher once said about something else. The government’s decision to debug our national security by getting rid of Huawei is the right one (although seven years is much too long). The puzzle is why it did not happen earlier. At the end of January, I interviewed the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, when he came over here. We knew by then everything we needed to know about the Chinese government’s control of Huawei and the lack of trust this must engender. The British government also heard clearly from Mr Pompeo — and from Australia — that its preference for Huawei 5G threatened the deep trust

Martin Vander Weyer

We’ll never know whether Huawei is still listening

This column has been banging on about the peculiar nature of Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, ever since its expanded presence in the UK won what I described as ‘grateful applause from David Cameron’ back in 2012. I have deployed everything from serious intelligence sources to laborious knock-knock jokes (‘Huawei who?’ ‘Who are we kidding, prime minister? We don’t need to knock on your front door when we’ve already got a backdoor device in the Downing Street switchboard’) to make my point that the proliferation of Huawei kit in UK telecoms networks represented an obvious but unquantifiable security risk. Which means I can’t disagree with the government’s belated decision to

Portrait of the week: Face masks in, Huawei out and Amazon’s TikTok trouble

Home New regulations would compel people to wear a face covering in shops in England from 24 July on pain of a £100 fine. Similar regulations had been imposed in Scotland. A report requested by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said that, without lockdowns, treatments or vaccines, in a reasonable worst-case scenario, a second wave of infection could see coronavirus deaths in hospital alone range between 24,500 and 251,000, peaking in January and February. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 12 July, total deaths from Covid-19 stood at 44,798, with a seven-day average of 85 deaths a day; but in the following two days the number

The Huawei decision does not make technological sense

We’re fairly used to this government’s IT blunders now. Only recently there was the fiasco of the NHS coronavirus app – it was predicted here that it would be ‘dead-on-arrival’, weeks before the government was eventually forced to admit the same. Now with each passing month comes yet another poor decision by the UK. The latest of which is the plan to remove Huawei from UK 5G infrastructure over the next seven years. Politically, the justification is sensible. Technologically, it borders on farcical. To understand the Huawei issue, it’s best to think of a simple home network, involving a modem, a WiFi router and a smart TV. All three of these


Matt Hancock’s Huawei howler

Matt Hancock appeared to have no time for Donald Trump’s boasts this morning when asked about the US President taking credit for the U-turn on the use of Huawei technology in our 5G network. Asked on Sky News whether he believed that the decision to scrap Huawei’s involvement was down to Trump, the Health minister replied that: ‘we all know Donald Trump don’t we… people can claim credit’. Hancock instead insisted that it was a ‘technical decision’ based on NCSC advice ‘to make sure that we have the highest quality 5G systems over the coming years’. He then referred viewers to the statement made by culture minister Oliver Dowden announcing the

The ineptitude of despots

Displaying the pristine neutrality that has made her such a popular figure, Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis apparently tweeted the following last week: ‘No. 10 is trying to control the media, and everyone in our democracy should be afraid.’ Sadly, this typically sane and measured observation was later deleted. Was she told to delete it? Or did she think better of it but was not quite up to tweeting: ‘No. 10 isn’t trying to control the media and we should probably all rest easy.’ I wonder how many other tweets she’s deleted before I got around to seeing them? ‘The schools are closed not on account of Covid but because giant Tory

The grand names on Huawei’s payroll

Why is it wrong, some ask, for senior British businessmen, former civil servants etc to work for Huawei UK? After all, it is a major company which needs business experience and advice here. Even now, despite the government’s apparent U-turn, it is not certain it will be excluded from our 5G contracts. Surely the answer is that if a director were to explain frankly to the public how Huawei works, he would have to admit that — whatever its formal ownership structure — it is controlled by and furthers the aims of the Chinese Communist party regime. He would also have to concede that these aims have now become hostile

The secret behind South Korea’s Covid success

At the start of the pandemic, the situation in care homes looked particularly grim. One report on 19 March said: ‘Experts warn that hundreds of substandard long-term care facilities could serve as hotbeds for the contagious coronavirus.’ The alert came not from Wiltshire or Manchester, but from Park Chan-kyong, Seoul correspondent of the South China Morning Post. There was real fear that the residents of the city’s care homes would become victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet three months on, South Korea as a whole — let alone its care homes — has suffered fewer than 300 deaths nationwide. The world is asking: how? Things have looked slightly worse recently

Martin Vander Weyer

Who would want to come to Britain for a holiday now?

All logic suggests that the 14-day quarantine for arrivals from abroad really is, as Michael O’Leary of Ryanair put it, ‘a political stunt’. The best explanation is that it was conceived in Downing Street — with minimal consultation, unless someone rang Armando Iannucci, writer of The Thick of It — as a sop to focus-group xenophobia and parental anxiety, as well as a show of grip after the Dominic Cummings debacle. Its absurdity is highlighted by news that the West Indies cricket squad is now quarantined, while 122 high-goal polo players were reported to have beaten the deadline by slipping in last Saturday on a charter flight from Buenos Aires