It’s somewhat ironic that a British Cabinet Minister is sacked for leaking secrets from a government meeting called to discuss secrets. But Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured) was shown the door when his mobile phone calls’ record linked him to a journalist, writes Phil Braund.
The 11 minutes’ conversation came following a top-secret meeting of the country’s National Security Council. The highly confidential meeting was called to discuss if Chinese tech titan Huawei should help build the UK’s 5G system. The Prime Minister Teresa May announced to her ministers and defence chiefs that Huawei would get the go ahead. Hours later the “never to be talked about decision” was front page headlines.
A prompt security investigation revealed Williamson’s mobile activity – and he was gone. He vehemently denies the allegations – dramatically swearing his innocence “on his children’s lives”. Since the dismissal Huawei has strongly defended its position as a world leader in cyber technology.
The company is being dogged by accusations from US President Donald Trump that it is insecure. The Americans have launched a worldwide PR campaign to besmirch Huawei, but few have listened.
The Chinese ambassador in London quickly reassured the UK Government that the claims were baseless. Liu Xioming said the American allegations were “scaremongering”. In a side-swipe at the United States – which has already excluded Huawei from its telecoms set-up – Liu urged the British prime minister to resist “protectionism”.
He said: “Countries of global influence, like the UK, make decisions independently and in accordance with their national interests.” For a few brief moments it appeared as if Mrs May was once again showing her toughness. Since her disastrous decision to hold a pointless snap election in 2017 – losing her already slim majority – she’s looked a beaten person.
But she came out swinging against Williamson, effectively accusing him of lying to an internal inquiry. She was swift and firm in her decision making. Some would say that’s something not seen since the Brexit vote. Sadly, those purple patch moments have already faded.
The super trouper spotlight of the Conservatives local elections failure is once again shining on a beleaguered PM. And Brexit supporter Williamson is promising to give his former ally Mrs May grief from the backbenches.
But he has always been “gaffe-prone” – and some believe not a good choice as defence secretary. Among defence chiefs he was thought a lightweight, always looking for a headline.
He wanted the British navy to fire paintballs against the Spanish fleet off the coast of Gibraltar – not exactly Drake defeating the Armada. And he told Russian President to “shut up and go away”. He also believed he was bomb-proof after successfully running Mrs May’s 2016 campaign to take over from David Cameron. Now, an alleged security leak made from his mobile has ended his ambitions.
America looking to cut a deal with arrested Huawei finance boss
America’s Justice Department might cut a deal with Huawei’s finance chief Meng Wanzhou (pictured). The proposal would allow Meng to return to China from Canada – where she was arrested. However, Meng would have to admit wrongdoing in the case, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Meng is accused in the United States of allegedly violating sanctions on Iran. She faces bank fraud charges for supposedly misleading HSBC in such a way it might break the sanctions. Ms Meng was arrested two years ago this week on a US warrant while changing planes in Vancouver. She is on bail but has not been allowed to leave Vancouver.
Meng is adamant she has done nothing wrong. She is said to be “reluctant” to make any admissions she believes to be untrue. She maintains her arrest was politically motivated. Outgoing President Donal Trump fought an all-out campaign against Huawei. He claims the tech company uses its kit to spy on countries and people. However, he has failed to provide any evidence to support his claims. Meng is the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei. The Chinese company and Meng are said to have conspired to defraud HSBC by misrepresenting its relationship with Skycom. Authorities in America allege Huawei and Ms Meng used Skycom – a suspected front company operating in Iran – to buy embargoed goods.
Meng’s arrest has also led to diplomatic friction between China and Canada. China cut off imports of Canadian canola seed. And two Canadians were arrested on espionage charges – yet to be resolved. Trump’s trenchant stand against Huawei has also soured relationships between American and Britain. The UK had agreed a deal with Huawei for it to supply infrastructure to a new 5G network. But Prime Minister Boris later made a U-turn on the agreement. Huawei has consistently denied the spying allegations.
Chinese telecoms kit vendors gained global market share this year
As you can see from the table below, Huawei and ZTE are both on course to gain two percentage points of market share each this year, at the expense of Nokia, Cisco and Samsung. With investments in China outpacing the overall market, we estimate Huawei and ZTE collectively gained about 3 percentage points of revenue share,” wrote Dell’Oro Analyst Stefan Pongratz in his blog on the matter, implying they actually grabbed around 1.5 percentage points each.
Pongratz also noted that telecoms continues to out-pace the broader economy. “The overall telecom equipment market continued to appear disconnected from the underlying economy,” he wrote. “While the on-going transition from 4G to 5G is helping to offset reduced capex in slower-to-adopt mobile broadband markets, we also attribute the disconnect to the growing importance of connectivity and the nature of this recession being different than in other downturns improving the visibility for the operators.”
All this serves as a reminder of the sheer size and importance of the Chinese telecoms market. Judging from a report by China Daily, there’s little sign of that changing next year. It spoke to Wu Hequan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who reckons China will build over a million 5G base stations next year, taking the grand total to 1.7 million by the end of the year.
“As the construction of 5G networks accelerates, the cost of building each 5G base station will go down,” said Wu. “Even if Chinese telecom carriers earmark the same amount of 5G investments in 2022 as they have done this year, they can build far more 5G base stations next year than this year. I believe Chinese telecom carriers will build more than one million 5G base stations next year, though the specific construction targets will have to wait for the telecom carriers’ official announcements.”
Even allowing for the fact that Wu and China Daily both know better than to deviate from the approved CCP narrative, this seems like a plausible projection. If anything, the aggro with the US will have made the Chinese state all the more determined to ensure its domestic telecoms industry goes from strength to strength and we wouldn’t be surprised to be writing a similar report in a year’s time.
China-ASEAN co-operation on digital economy
The digital economy has gradually become a focus of the co-operation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in recent years. As drivers of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and relevant summits are constantly enriching the content of digital economy in forums, meetings and expositions, so as to lay a solid foundation for China-ASEAN digital economy co-operation, write Pang Geping and Li Zong, People's Daily.
For instance, state-of-the-art products of the internet, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) industries, such as smart robots, intelligent management systems of unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite remote sensing systems, as well as virtual reality products introducing meteorological knowledge, are exhibited at the Advanced Technology Exhibition section at the CAEXPO every year, attracting huge numbers of visitors.
A series of high-end forums are also held by the CAEXPO, building a bridge of cooperation that gathers consensus and align development strategies.
The China-ASEAN E-commerce Summit that was initiated since 2014, as well as relevant e-commerce forums, have kept their focus on cross-border and rural e-commerce issues. They launched a series of high-level dialogues and implemented a batch of e-commerce projects, including a cross-border trade facilitation platform between China and ASEAN and a China-ASEAN cross-border e-commerce industrial park in Nanning, south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
The 12th CAEXPO held in 2015 started the construction of the China-ASEAN Information Harbor. Since then, the China-ASEAN Information Harbor Forum has developed into a routine activity of the CAEXPO, becoming an important platform for digital economy cooperation between the two sides. Propelled by the forum, a series of digital economy cooperation mechanisms have been established between China and ASEAN countries, and a batch of major projects have been put into operation, such as a fund for the China-ASEAN Information Harbor, the China-ASEAN Information Harbor Digital Economy Alliance, as well as an industrial ecosphere established under the China-ASEAN Information Harbor.
Apart from high-level forums, the CAEXPO also held professional exhibitions to showcase the development of digital technologies, offering a window of cooperation for participants. At the 15th CAEXPO, Chinese tech giant Huawei presented future scenarios of a micro smart city, as well as new experiences of 5G network, demonstrating the profound changes to be brought by the infusion between 5G and traditional industries such as housing, automobile, and manufacturing. Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com exhibited its smart logistics system composed of unattended warehouses, delivery stations, drones and UAVs. Thailand-China Technology Transfer Center brought its technologies in cosmetics, farm produce and dietary supplements.
This year marks the ASEAN-China Year of Digital Economy Cooperation. The 17th CAEXPO held a series of activities under the theme of 'Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening Digital Economy Co-operation', so as to comprehensively promote the in-depth cooperation between China and ASEAN countries in digital economy.
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