An “unsubstantiated” decision: Beijing on Friday criticized the exclusion of its telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE from the 5G network in Canada, in the name of national security.
Beijing-Ottawa relations deteriorated markedly in 2018 with the arrest in Canada, at the request of the United States, of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, who has since returned to China.
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In a context of rivalry, Washington, for its part, has considerably increased pressure against Chinese technological jewels in recent years.
Washington regularly accuses Huawei of posing a danger to national security due to possible links to Chinese intelligence services, which the company denies.
The United States is urging its allies to give up ZTE and especially Huawei to outfit their 5G networks, arguing that Beijing could use these firms to monitor a country’s communications and data traffic.
After years of hesitation, Canada decided on Thursday to ban the two groups from its 5G network.
“We announce our intention to ban Huawei and ZTE products and services from Canada’s telecommunications systems,” Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said.
“This follows a full review by our security agencies and in consultation with our closest allies,” Champagne told a news conference.
Beijing expressed its discontent on Friday.
Listen to the interview with Guy St-Jacques, former Canadian Ambassador to China on QUB Radio:
“China firmly opposes” this decision, Chinese diplomacy spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters, assuring that his country will take “all necessary measures” to defend Chinese companies.
The spokesman did not specify what those measures might be.
Canada has already banned Huawei from participating in government tenders for basic network equipment, such as routers.
The United States leads the campaign against Huawei, with the spectacular banishment of the Chinese group by US President Donald Trump in May 2019.
Washington, which no longer has a major manufacturer of telecommunications equipment in mobile networks, has since openly encouraged its European partners to do the same.
Other Canadian allies have followed suit in the United States, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and Sweden.
France, for its part, has chosen to restrict the operating authorizations of operators that use Huawei technologies.
5G technology, whose deployment is accelerating around the world, offers very high-speed Internet access and is set to play a key role for connected objects.
5G “represents a great opportunity for competition and growth,” but “it also carries risks,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Thursday.
“There are many hostile actors who are ready to exploit vulnerabilities” in telecommunications networks, judged Mr. Mendicino, in front of the press.
Diplomatic relations between China and Canada soured in late 2018 with the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive and daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications group.
This marked the beginning of a major crisis between the two countries dubbed “hostage diplomacy”, with the parallel detention in China of two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.
After nearly three years of proceedings, Meng Wanzhou was finally released at the end of September 2021 and returned to China. The two Canadians were later released.
The decision to ban ZTE and Huawei from 5G in Canada came on the same day China lifted a three-year ban on Canadian canola imports.
In March 2019, Chinese authorities revoked the license of Canada’s largest agricultural producer, Richardson, and Viterra Inc. due to pests detected in exports.
At the time, the move was widely seen as retaliation by Beijing for Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Canada.
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