Boris Johnson’s Bad Bet on China
The controversy around Huawei shows you can’t benefit from the Chinese economy without acquiescing to Chinese politics.
It was an odd juxtaposition. At a NATO summit in London on Dec. 4, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised he would keep the controversial Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei away from Britain’s 5G network if it jeopardized the United Kingdom’s work with its intelligence-sharing partners, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. “I don’t want this country to be unnecessarily hostile to investment from overseas but, on the other hand, we cannot prejudice our vital national security interests,” Johnson said. Then, perhaps fearing he had ventured too far, less than 24 hours later Johnson pulled out a phone and took a selfie with two TV anchors—a Huawei phone.
Though his staff later claimed the phone didn’t belong to him, the incident got wide coverage in British press. The British government will reportedly announce how to handle Huawei after the Dec. 12 election, which pits the widely reviled Johnson and his Conservatives against his widely reviled challenger Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Corbyn, who is unlikely to win, has spoken little about China or how to deal with state-backed companies like Huawei.