Winston Churchill once said, “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” The same man was also fond of saying, “The English never draw a line without blurring it.”
These words ring especially true with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent decision to allow Huawei, a company known for assisting with Chinese espionage efforts, to build critical technological infrastructure for their country. By letting Huawei in the front door, the UK has allowed Huawei access to sensitive data from across their country, data that Huawei is required by law to hand over to Chinese authorities should they ask for it.
Huawei technology is also far more vulnerable to flaws and malicious attacks by nonstate actors than its rival companies, further demonstrating how the acceptance of Huawei technology leaves the UK wide open to serious national security risks from Chinese espionage and cyberattacks. In other words, this is a perfect recipe for short term gain and long-term pain.
The people of the United Kingdom need to ask themselves, is this really the path we want our country to be on?
Over the past year, the United States has warned of the dangers of the Huawei challenge stemming from its history of intellectual property theft, blatant national security risks, and violation of international sanctions on Iran. These concerns have only heightened with time.
Further, most of our Five Eyes intelligence allies, including Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, have continued to be invaluable partners in standing up for our shared security. The UK’s decision directly jeopardizes the global role this alliance was meant to play and sends the wrong message to our partners.
The people of the United States have great concerns with Prime Minister Johnson’s short-sighted Huawei decision, in direct opposition to voices from his own intelligence services. The will of our people has been reflected in Congress, where bills like H.R. 5661 have been introduced, which would ban the United States from participating in intelligence sharing with any country permitting the operation of Huawei 5G technology within their border. The U.S.-UK intelligence partnership, the strongest in the world, is now in jeopardy. The Huawei decision will not be contained to intelligence, and the uncertainty will surely spread into important trade and diplomatic negotiations as well.
I recognize the need to expand international development, especially in underserved areas. That is why I introduced the BUILD Act, which was passed into law in 2018, and created the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), incentivizing private industry investment in developing nations around the globe. The DFC has been essential in actively promoting financing for mobile network development that does not include Huawei equipment. At the same time, the U.S. is dedicating significant resources of its own towards developing 5G technology that will provide for coverage and security for the long term.
There is still time for the UK to reverse course. As a nation with some of the strongest diplomatic and technological leverage in the world, let us again work together to provide the world with 5G technology free of leaks and security risks. The global community has much to gain from a partnership fueling innovation based on trust and collaboration. We must stop treating short-term objectives as our strategic end goals, and instead embrace the kind of planning that looks decades, even centuries, into the future. These decisions are hard, but they are the ones we must make.
Yoho represents Florida’s 3rd District and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.