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Lenin once famously said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. Today China’s CCP seems to have improved on the maxim, discovering they can make profit by selling people enough rope to hang themselves with.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering letting Huawei, a Chinese telecoms and consumer electronics giant with well documented ties to the CCP, build the UK’s new 5G network. Other leaders across Europe and the world seem similarly inclined. Nevertheless, Johnson is making a mistake. The deal would leave the UK vulnerable to Chinese intelligence operations and cyberwarfare, pave the way for growing Chinese influence over domestic politics and media, and might not even deliver effectively on the promised goods.
That China would use the Huawei deal as an opportunity to embed itself in UK telecoms for intelligence purposes is unquestionable. China itself is one of the global cyberwarfare superpowers and has faced multiciple accusations of using its capacities to bolster its political and commercial interests, or simply punish those that displease it.
Many American companies from Google to Dow Chemicals and Northrop Grumman have reported cyber-attacks attributed to Chinese groups. In 2015 the US government Office of Personnel Management reported a data breach affecting 2.15 million Americans, that anonymous government officials reported came from China.
This year the New York Times revealed the Chinese state-sponsored hackers were engaged in a sustained campaign to surveil and harass Tibetan and Uighur groups outside its borders.
Furthermore, as all major companies in China have close ties to the one party state, including official party bodies embedded within them, they are often used to bolster CCP interests. All Chinese companies are subject to Article’s 7 and 14 of China’s National Intelligence Law, that requires Chinese persons and companies to cooperate with the intelligence services and handover any requested data. Huawei itself is said to receive funds directly from the Chinese intelligence services and has been banned by the USA, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia from bidding on sensitive government contracts.
Indeed, China has a record of using infrastructure projects to extend its surveillance and cyberwarfare capacities. In the Philippines the State Grid Corporation of China has used its 40% stake in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines in just such a manner. In 2018 it was revealed that the SGCC had laid undeclared fibre optic cables alongside the cables of the Philippine energy grid that it had been contracted to expand and improve. While the SGCC claimed it was simply building a smart grid the seemingly covert way this had been gone about, and the well documented vulnerability of energy grids to cyberattack, raise serious questions. Despite this no real action was taken and today the SGCC seems to have a disturbing grip over key NGCC infrastructure to the point that only Chinese engineers, and no Filipinos, understand and have full access to vital pieces of software.