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After Britain, Could Germany Be Next to Ban Huawei 5G Technology?


Huawei headquarters building is pictured in Reading, Britain, July 14, 2020.
After Britain, Could Germany Be Next to Ban Huawei 5G Technology?
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A German member of the European Parliament says his country should follow Britain’s decision and bar 5G technology from Chinese tech company Huawei.

Reinhard Buetikofer is a member of Germany’s opposition Green Party. He chairs the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Buetikofer spoke to VOA last week from Berlin. He said that Germany’s decision on whether to include Huawei equipment in its 5G telecommunications network “is still up for grabs.” 5G is a term for the next generation of high-speed wireless technology.

Britain recently decided to bar Huawei equipment from its 5G network. The decision marked a major change from the country’s earlier plan to permit the use of such equipment.

Britain’s decision “may very well have an impact on the decision Germany is about to make,” Buetikofer said. He added that Britain’s earlier plan had been suggested as a model by German supporters of the Chinese company.

FILE - A logo of the upcoming mobile standard 5G is pictured in Hanover, Germany March 31, 2019.
FILE - A logo of the upcoming mobile standard 5G is pictured in Hanover, Germany March 31, 2019.

“In the past, supporters of having Huawei construct Germany’s 5G network often pointed out: ‘Look, the Brits knew that much more about Huawei than we do, if the Brits are not doing anything about it, why should we?’” Buetikofer said.

China-based Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications equipment, capturing nearly 30 percent of the market. The company is a leader in 5G networks and a top producer of smartphones. Huawei is currently working on building 5G mobile systems in countries around the world.

United States officials pressed Britain to change its position on Huawei and have urged other countries to ban the company’s equipment. The officials say they are concerned about Huawei’s links to the Chinese government. They have warned that the equipment may include “back doors” that could permit China to spy on sensitive communications. Huawei has rejected such accusations.

A pedestrian walks past a Huawei product stand at an EE telecommunications shop in London, April 29, 2019
A pedestrian walks past a Huawei product stand at an EE telecommunications shop in London, April 29, 2019

Buetikofer is a strong supporter of a ban on Huawei 5G equipment in Germany. He welcomed the British announcement with a piece of advice for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Now it's Berlin's turn to move!” he wrote in a message on Twitter.

Observers say a German decision to ban Huawei would be a diplomatic win for the U.S. government. The Trump administration is seeking to persuade more countries to take Britain’s lead.

“We hope we can build out a coalition that understands the threat and will work collectively,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a recent trip to Britain and Denmark.

A 5G logo is displayed at the Huawei campus in Shenzhen city, China, March 6, 2019. Australia’s ban on Huawei’s involvement in its 5G networks and its crackdown on foreign covert interference are testing Beijing’s efforts to project its power overseas.
A 5G logo is displayed at the Huawei campus in Shenzhen city, China, March 6, 2019. Australia’s ban on Huawei’s involvement in its 5G networks and its crackdown on foreign covert interference are testing Beijing’s efforts to project its power overseas.

But Buetikofer said his objections to the Chinese company are not influenced by Washington. “I oppose Huawei’s playing a part in the German 5G network not because I want to do the U.S. a favor, but because I think it is a threat to German national security,” he said.

As in other countries, the German argument over Huawei is tied to a larger debate about the best way to deal with China’s rising power. Merkel has stated the importance of “dialogue” with China. But others, including several German lawmakers, see the Chinese leadership using its influence around the world to seek to replace democratic values.

Merkel has argued in favor of Huawei based on a “no-spying” agreement she said her government completed with the company. But Buetikofer notes that Huawei founder and head Ren Zhengfei is a member of China’s ruling Communist Party.

“Don’t take us for idiots,” the Green Party member said during a recent podcast.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Natalie Liu reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

network – n. a system or group of connected parts

up for grabs – phr. available and ready

impact n. have a strong effect on something or someone

construct – v. to build

mobile – adj. able to be moved from one place to another

favor – n. the support of approval of something

dialogue – n. formal talks

idiot – n. a stupid person or a person who is acting in a stupid way

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