Huawei: Industry Strategy Missing

In all the fuss about awarding the giant Chinese telecoms company Huawei an unspecified share in supplying equipment for the so-called Fifth Generation (5G) networks in the UK, two key points have been completely missed by government and mainstream media.


Contracts to supply are hugely valuable commercially. Government should make building the 5G equipment manufacturing factories in the UK a condition of supply contracts from any supplier, not just Huawei. This would help to redress the huge UK deficit in electronics goods manufacture[1].

Precedents are numerous. In the 1920s General Motors (of America) was persuaded to build a truck and van factory at Bedford in return for access to the British armed forces’ supplier list. The three-ton Bedford truck became a British army icon, seeing service in all the army’s World War II campaigns – Burma, the Middle East, North Africa, Italy, North West Europe, as well as the UK.

If the government insisted on 5G telecoms suppliers manufacturing most, if not all, their equipment in the UK, ideally in partnership with one or more British owned companies set up for the purpose, then it would know precisely what UK technical secrets Huawei was accessing and what gadgets and software they were installing.


David Lidington is referred to as Mrs May’s deputy. His apparent assertion that Huawei posed no danger to the security of UK intelligence and defence networks exposes yet again the astonishing naivety of many in the present government. Whether Huawei is commercially separate from the Chinese state would be irrelevant in a crisis or even a period of tension between Britain and China.

BAe Systems, while commercially independent of UK defence organisations, is closely intertwined technically with all of them. In World War II and beyond into the 1950s, secrets flowed freely between government agencies and armaments suppliers like the submarine, aircraft, tanks, bombs, guns, radar manufacturers, as indeed they do today in particular areas of technology. Why should anyone expect China – Huawei – to be any different?


[1] Stephen Bush, “Comparing routes to Brexit”, page 18, Figure 1, published by Global Britain, February 2019.

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