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US accused of ‘hegemonic bullying’ in Huawei UK ban

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The Chargé d’Affairs of the Chinese Embassy in SA, Li Nan.
The Chargé d’Affairs of the Chinese Embassy in SA, Li Nan.

The Chargé d’Affairs of the Chinese Embassy in SA, Li Nan, has described the UK’s move to exclude Huawei from its 5G networks by 2027 as a “very bad” decision motivated by political pressure from the US administration.

He made the comments during an online broadcast of the official opening ceremony of Huawei’s ICT training initiative, Seeds for the Future SA Programme, attended by minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams as well as this year’s participating students.

After initially giving Huawei a limited role in its 5G infrastructure, last month the UK government gave in to pressure from the US, deciding to completely remove the Chinese giant from the country’s 5G network.

It’s a very sad development, said Nan, adding it was made without any solid evidence of the so-called security risks. “The facts have made very clear that decisions to ban Huawei are not about national security but political manipulation.

“UK companies like BT and Vodafone have voiced their objection to the decision of the UK government. By taking the decision to ban Huawei, the UK has not only lost 20 billion pounds and two years lagging behind, but also its independence of foreign policy and credibility in honouring its commercial commitments.”

Backdoor allegations

Last year, the Chinese telecoms giant found itself in the middle of a trade war between the world's two biggest economic powers, the US and China.

As the trade war intensified, the Trump administration put Huawei on an export blacklist, citing “national security threats” due to the company’s close ties with the Chinese government.

Huawei has vehemently denied installing any backdoors in its networking equipment for alleged government spying.

“The so-called backdoors and other security risks of Huawei products as cited by the US and other countries are purely rumour-mongering and slandering,” emphasised Nan. “Huawei has been providing services in 170 countries all over the world and no one has ever raised the issue of security or complaints with Huawei.

“Huawei has publicly pledged that it could find no backdoor agreement with any government or organisation…Huawei has even set up a cyber security testing centre in the UK, and UK security experts, technicians and engineers have been testing Huawei products in the past for more than 10 years and they found nothing to complain about so-called backdoors.

“The all-round sanctions on Huawei by the US, with its excuse of national security, are totally groundless, out of common sense and illogical. More and more evidence has come out to prove that it is the United States that has been the threat of cyber security.”

According to Nan, the US is mobilising its strengths to block, contain and defame a totally private Chinese company like Huawei and harming other countries’ interests without benefiting its real national interests.

“It has not only banned Huawei products in the US but it is also trying to force other countries, especially its allies and Western countries, including some developing countries, to reject Huawei products.

“This will definitely cut the global value and supply chain, and seriously undermine and distort the international market order of fair competition.

“These acts of infringement by the US are nothing but hegemonic bullying that harms others without any gains. We are strongly opposed to that and China is confident that Huawei and many other Chinese companies will endure this challenge and prosper even more in the future.”

Budding ICT talent

Despite challenges in the West, Huawei has received backing from African nations, including SA.

Last year, president Cyril Ramaphosa threw his weight behind Huawei, saying government supports the company that is going to take SA and the world to better technologies such as 5G.

Local mobile operators, including Vodacom, MTN and mobile data-only network Rain, have also turned to Huawei to activate their next-generation 5G networks in parts of SA.

Huawei SA has also committed to bolster the country’s ICT talent through the Seeds for the Future SA Programme in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT).

Now in its fifth year, the Seeds for the Future training initiative was started with the then telecoms and postal services department, now known as the DCDT. As part of the programme, 10 university students are chosen from various institutions across SA to travel to China for a two-week study trip.

The 2020 ICT training programme, which kicks off today, is taking place online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year also sees the programme expand the number of participating students from 10 to 50.

The 50 course participants – selected from hundreds of applicants – will follow live-streamed lectures and online course material.

The course includes modules on 5G broadband, cloud computing and the Internet of things, as well as virtual tours of the Huawei campus in Dongguan, China; interactions with other course participants from around the world; and access to Chinese cultural resources.

According to Huawei SA, it has added artificial intelligence to the free online training course as part of its commitment to train youth in 4IR technologies such as 5G and cloud computing.

“To function in the emerging fourth industrial revolution, ICT skills will be indispensable – for organisations, for individuals and for society,” said Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan.

“We believe it is critical to unleash the potential of South Africa’s young people – especially women – so they can become agents of their own digital empowerment.”

Ndabeni-Abrahams, who delivered the ceremony’s keynote address, endorsed Huawei’s investment in youth ICT development and highlighted the importance of tech skills in the new economy.

The minister noted government is committed to working with progressive partners that invest in the people of SA, so they too can participate effectively and meaningfully in the digital future.

“Initiatives like Seeds for the Future give hope to South Africa,” she said. “You represent a new brigade, which will drive the fourth industrial revolution we are committed to. We can’t do it without you.”

Nan wished this year’s Seeds for the Future cohort success. “I strongly believe a localisation of talent in African countries is a great step to fulfil aspirational national development goals,” he stated, adding that a sustainable supply of ICT professionals is an essential pillar of digital transformation.

“China supports South Africa’s efforts to explore its national development, with the digital economy as the core,” he concluded.

Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams delivered the opening ceremony’s keynote address.
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams delivered the opening ceremony’s keynote address.
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