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Donald Trump and Boris Johnson

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, September 2019. Photo: Shealah Craiughead/Flickr/Public domain

The decision to ban Huawei at the detriment of the UK economy shows the ruling class will follow US foreign policy no matter what, writes Jamal Elaheebocus

On Tuesday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced that Huawei will be removed from the UK’s 5G phone networks by 2027. No new Huawei 5G kit will be able to be bought by telecom companies after 31st December and Dowden said the UK will be on an “irreversible path” to eliminating “high-risk vendors” by the next general election. The decision follows the Trump administration’s decision to ban US companies from supplying Huawei and Trump has been quick to claim that the British government’s decision is all his own doing. It also comes after pressure from around 60 rebel Tory MPs.

The government’s u-turn will have huge economic implications and put the UK behind most of Europe. The decision announced by Dowden on Tuesday will lead to a delay in the roll out of the 5G network by up to three years across the UK, with rural areas expected to experience the longest delays. It will also cause an economic hit of an estimated almost £7 billion, according to research carried out by research firm Assembly, on behalf of BT, Vodafone, O2 and Three.

Relations with China are now extremely strained. In 2015, then chancellor George Osborne promised a ‘golden decade’ for Chinese-British relations. The policy of Cameron’s government shows that the government’s increased hostility towards China is unrelated to the human rights abuses in the country. This is the country which the UK exported £30.7 billion worth of goods and services to last year and which counted for 6.8% of all UK imports.

This decision is clearly not going to be economically beneficial. A breakdown in Britain’s relationship with China will potentially mean the loss of one of Britain’s biggest trading partners.the UK exported £30.7 billion worth of goods and services to China last year and China counted for 6.8% of all UK imports. Stripping Huawei from the 5G network is a significant setback to the 5G programme. Over the last several decades, the UK governments have allowed British telecoms companies to be sold off overseas.

The UK’s desire to maintain the so-called special relationship in the face of pressure from the US is clearly the only factor at play in this decision. Trump has attacked Huawei as part of a wider attack on China, which has provided Huawei with a $30 billion line of credit from the China Development Bank. Huawei was therefore a prime target for an attack on China, especially as it is an example of the rapid technological developments taking place in China, which potentially could overtake the US as a leader in information technology, artificial intelligence and telecommunications.

There is also the more general rise of China economically and militarily which is troubling the US. Before coronavirus, China was the fastest growing economy in the world, with GDP growth averaging almost 10% per year since 1978. Their considerably more successful response to coronavirus has allowed an easing of lockdown measures. This meant the economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter of this year, following the biggest contraction in GDP since records began. This is in stark contrast to the US, where over 40 million people have lost their jobs and coronavirus is still rampant. China has been continually attacked by Trump, from accusing them of deliberately spreading the virus to claiming the World Health Organisation is a puppet of China.

It is becoming clearer that the government is willing to throw away any trading relationship with China, in order to keep the US satisfied, despite the consequences for the economy. This could also potentially fuel more Sinophobia, which has dramatically increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, fuelled by the aggressive rhetoric of the Trump Administration and parts of the Tory party. This has included 5G phone masts being set on fire, as a result of a conspiracy theory spreading across social media that 5G masts were causing coronavirus.

Within the Tory party, around 60 MPs are calling for the total ban of Huawei from all mobile networks. A China Research Group has been set up, headed by Tom Tugendhat, supposedly designed to monitor China’s activity. The decision on Huawei represents another step towards the US’s policy of aggression towards China. While the totalitarian regime in China is clearly undemocratic and very repressive, the kinds of actions like that taken by Dowden on Tuesday will only act to increase tensions between two imperialist states.The dramatic shift in policy towards China in recent years and again this week shows the willingness of the ruling class to follow every twist and turn of US foreign policy, despite the domestic consequences.

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