China is an adversarial power. It seeks to advance at our expense, leaving America—and our friends and allies—less free, less prosperous, and less safe.
The same can be said of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other transnational Islamist terrorist organizations. Beijing is not colluding with these groups, but that doesn’t matter.
If our European allies decide to use 5G technology from Chinese telecom giant Huawei, it will leave them—and us—more vulnerable to the predations of both Beijing and the terrorists.
Don’t for a moment think that the fall of the ISIS “Caliphate” means the end of terrorism. Those folks are still trying to kill us all.
Last month, officials busted a suspected ISIS terror cell in Europe. Two Islamist terror plots were disrupted here in the U.S. in just the last few weeks. Captured ISIS computer files reportedly indicate the organization is planning a fresh wave of attacks in Europe and the Middle East—strikes similar to the 2015 atrocity in Paris that killed 130 people.
What does all this have to do with China? Plenty. Chinese telecom companies have launched a marketing blitz to provide the technology for planned super-fast 5G wireless networks in the U.S., European nations, and other key allies around the world.
That’s a problem because there is no such thing as a big “private” telecom company in China. They answer to the Chinese government and serve as tools of China’s military and intelligence services.
This is not breaking news. Beijing has worked to merge its private sector and defense communities for at least two decades, and they’ve made no secret of it. In 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared, “[M]ilitary-civilian integration is a prerequisite for building integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities and for realizing the Party’s goal of building a strong military in the new era.”
The poster child for Beijing’s “civil-military” fusion is Huawei, a global leader in 5G wares. It is subsidized by the Chinese government and has already been accused of espionage by the United States, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. More recently, the United Kingdom and Germany expressed grave doubts about the company’s trustworthiness.
There is every reason to have such doubt. Beijing has national security laws that require Chinese companies to “support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.” Moreover, Chinese intelligence agencies are legally allowed to access—by force, if necessary—any server or other data stored within the nation’s borders.
So, there lies the problem. If allies allow China to become the backbone of their wireless networks, everything run by or passing through those networks will be compromised—critical infrastructure as well as intelligence and military systems.
The U.S. routinely shares highly sensitive intelligence information with our allies and vice versa, but if that sharing has to be done over Chinese-facilitated networks, we can kiss even the pretense of security and confidentiality goodbye.
One of the most crucial areas of intelligence sharing is in counterterrorism. The Europeans rely heavily on information developed by U.S. intelligence to preempt terrorist attacks. If that sharing stops, their vulnerability skyrockets. And, if we can’t share with them, they can’t share with us. Our vulnerabilities will go up as well.
Of course, other intelligence would be at risk, too. It’s not just terrorists that the West needs to monitor. From Russia to North Korea to Iran, there are a lot of bad actors out there.
We and our allies are safer when we can function as a trusted community. China’s global 5G infestation puts that trust at risk.
China needs to be stopped before it starts. The U.S. and its allies must have a frank conversation about 5G-related vulnerabilities. The goal should be to establish disqualifying factors for 5G investments.
Washington should clearly communicate with U.S. industries and foreign partners—as well as with the Chinese—about what legal frameworks, activities, and business practices will bar them from being included in U.S. 5G infrastructure, services, and other emerging technology integrations.
Further, the administration should start insisting that our allies adopt the same security-driven standards to maintain trust and cooperation among freedom-loving nations and to keep the pressure on countries and companies that work against our shared interests.