At a time when China is trying force Huawei 5G technology down the throats of the European and other countries that are facing Coronavirus crisis, the tech major seems to have suddenly run into trouble as the political sentiment has started turning against the telecom major that is already bridled with technical and security issues.
Having already slipped the world into the Coronavirus Pandemic that originated somewhere in the unsanitary wet markets of China, the Dragon had gone a step further with crisis profiteering- extorting Coronavirus-battered countries such as France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada into allowing the Huawei 5G technology.
Beijing was hoping that its “mask diplomacy” will succeed in getting countries that are badly in need of masks, PPE and other medical gear to accept Huawei 5G technology though they were adamant about keeping the tech major banned only till yesterday.
China has realized that it is the only economy that has started functioning to some degree once again, and at a time when the entire world is grappling with a shortage of medical supplies, China wants to capitalize on the situation.
China did make some initial inroads with the United Kingdom deciding to give the Chinese telecom giant Huawei a limited role, and France and Germany, both of whom are affected profoundly by the Coronavirus crisis also seem to be going down the same path. It seemed as if China would strongarm crisis-ridden countries into accepting Huawei, but now political pressure is spiking from the United States and the United Kingdom.
In what seems to be a direct threat to China, Downing Street had recently warned that China “faced a reckoning” over its handling of Coronavirus, insinuating that China needed to face the consequences and be punished. This sentiment will get fuelled further now that the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is indisposed with Coronavirus. The recent developments will embolden the MPs who have been demanding that no Chinese company be allowed a role in the United Kingdom’s vital infrastructure. It has also been reported that the UK will cancel its contract for 5G wireless service from the Chinese 5G leader Huawei.
Meanwhile, a new kind of crisis has also hit the telecom giant with conspiracy theories linking 5G technology and COVID-19. And these conspiracy theories have become quite popular with even celebrities giving credence to them on social media platforms.
Huawei has been the worst casualty of these conspiracy theories with seemingly direct accusations pointed against it. US singer Keri Hilson had, for example, tweeted that China’s 5G system went live on November 1, 2019, roundabout the same time when deaths started.
She later deleted the tweet but by that time the idea had gained traction with her 4.2 million followers. Similarly, Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson also posted such conspiracy theories on his Instagram profile.
Probably in conjunction with such conspiracy theories there have been reports of 5G phone masts getting damaged in Liverpool, Birmingham, and Belfast with police investigating possible arson.
A video of telecom power on fire also went viral on Facebook, though it was taken off later. But it is now clear how the conspiracy theories have caught the imagination of millions and the 5G technology is under threat, along with the Chinese telecom major Huawei.
The Chinese strategy of pushing Huawei during a worldwide crisis was never something that could have easily succeeded. Initially, it was the CCP mouthpiece Global Times, which had threatened cutting off necessary medical supplies if restrictions on Huawei were not lifted.
It had quoted a Chinese official as saying, “US move to restrict sales of technology to Huawei may backfire amid the #COVID19, as China could ban the export of face masks and other medical gear to America.”
China launched a major PR campaign trying to portray itself as a saviour of the world, but at the same time the Chinese President Xi Jinping was reportedly telling the French President Emmanuel Macron that China would supply masks only if France accepted Huawei’s 5G technology.
Report: China says it will ship France a billion face masks — but only if they buy their 5G equipment from Huawei: pic.twitter.com/dzmSlhFviD
— Ezra Levant 🇨🇳🦠 (@ezralevant) April 5, 2020
Huawei CEO Eric Xu and Beijing have been eager to push the telecom major into Europe and elsewhere, but what they do not realise is that the COVID-19 outbreak and “mask diplomacy” doesn’t mean that security and technical issues no longer persist.
The Chinese telecom giant was banned by the US and other countries, including the European countries, because of legitimate security concerns and accusations of espionage against Huawei. Now, countries might well be strong-armed into accepting Huawei to some extent but that is a highly transitory solution for the Chinese company.
In fact, it will make the political atmosphere even more hostile for Huawei 5G technology. China’s massive PR exercise to recover all the soft power it has lost due to mishandling of the Coronavirus Pandemic could also be done to dust given the irresponsible manner in which it is causing an infraction of sovereignty in several other countries by pushing Huawei at a time of crisis.
How long will the Pandemic and its aftereffects last? One year? Maybe, two years at the most? How long will Huawei last? As long as the Pandemic lasts. Because the sheer bluntness with which Beijing is pushing Huawei makes it clear that the Dragon cannot dispel the security and espionage concerns that surround the telecom major.
Huawei can only be pushed down the throats of other countries as long as there is some scope for extorting them over the need of medical supplies. Once that consideration is gone, Huawei too will become a thing of the past.