The Great Cyber Spilt, Germany and Huawei 5G | Nathan Wilson

In the world of international security in an ever more digital world the development of cyber secure networks remains of the utmost importance. It was revealed late last year that Germany would allow Chinese State-Owned telecommunication company, Huawei to build parts of German’s 5G network. This was reported by German business newspaper Handelsblatt back in November. 

The article in question was after viewing a draft piece of government legislation that the present administration (Angela Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union)) was hoping to submit to the Bundestag (German Legislature) soon. This followed the nations of Japan and South Korea, partially accepting Huawei’s advances into their communication networks the month before. No doubt from a Japanese perspective one of the main causes for this international development stemmed from the start of Suga’s administration as Japan’s new Prime Minister. While “Australia and Vietnam have said openly that they would follow the US’ lead” against such actions.

Although, Japan would later reverse this decision, suggesting a more ‘hawkish’ approach by Suga’s administration. This is alongside the nation teaming up with other nations to work with their 5G security and telecommunications, as shown through deals with India and the UK

However, as Germany’s actions present a major contrast to other major economics, possibly signifying a major shift. This divergence from nations like India, UK, US, Taiwan, and Australia. All these nations are completely excluding all Huawei infrastructure from their individual nation’s telecommunications infrastructure. 

This follows that China, and its state-owned enterprises will possibly use Germany’s partial acceptance as a foothold into launching a larger form of international development for itself. This being, to help it boost its own ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (biological, physical and digital technological) against the US. This Fourth Industrial Revolution will entail many different avenues for human development. These will include robotics, mining via remote-control and even potentially pandemic control. In the context of China examples will include, Huawei hoping to add the digital medical histories of Chinese citizens and monitoring their health via AI systems. Overall, this potentially shows that China is building on from its attempted domination of the 5G sphere, so that the nation can move into the next phase of development; telecommunications and 6G networking. 

What this presents is both a metaphorical and physical rift between nations over what side they choose within this information infrastructure ‘war’. Late last year, the German Government had made decisions over the reality of having Chinese state-owned telecommunication infrastructure and investment into the country. This is because within the nation, their three biggest telecommunication companies are already interconnected with Huawei (these being Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and Vodafone). According to Korean IT News, as shown by “Huawei’s products are responsible for 65% of Deutsche Telekom’s telecommunications equipment and 50% of Vodafone and Telefonica equipment”. Such companies already present the major difficulties of working against Huawei on their 5G infrastructure, after already being heavily entrenched into the system itself. Although Germany is the main example of this, it is not unique within the world. 

Another example is that of Brazil, which has similarly approached Huawei through their requested participation within their 5G networks. This is alongside other nations, like the Philippines and Iran. Such decisions within the global international development IT marketplace, demonstrate this great cyber split amongst nations. This has been best formulated in the following ‘Tech-Crunch’ article, found here

Alongside this, take the example of the German company of IMST (Based in North Rhine-Westphalia), which was a target of Addsino (a subsidiary of Chinese State-owned Defence group ‘China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation), which produces Chinese military communication systems from being brought out. As a response, the Germany Economy Ministry stated their confirmation that they blocked such attempted acquisition

 Such actions have been on the increase in recent years. With the number of Chinese state-owned enterprises buying German defence and IT companies, leading to Merkel’s government adopting a tougher stance on non-EU takeovers of German businesses. At the time, this showed that Germany was firmly placing itself as a counter to the UK, US and India, while joining Brazil with its support for Huawei’s infrastructure. This is not to mention that Germany could have become a ‘tech pariah’ nation amongst those firmly planted against China. This was due to Germany risking its own state and private cyber security with its continued plans for telecommunications company. 

However as documented recently, German has recently returned to the more anti-Huawei stance of this great cyber spilt. This being within the following piece of legislation, found here. This is especially relevant over how the country ‘sat on the fence’ for the last two years of such matters. 

Although, for other EU nations and Non-EU nations like the US, UK, India, and Australia, this presents a wonderful soundbite within this great cyber spilt. However, the remaining Huawei infrastructure will always hold many with great doubt of such a big ally. 

Overall, with the rise of increased politicalising of 5G networks and infrastructure the example of Germany could demonstrate that we are experiencing this major digital rift between different sides. For the UK, its exclusion of Huawei within its communication infrastructure remains ever more vital for itself. This is not to mention that the ‘UK-Japan digital cooperation’ towards the topic of 5G and other telecommunications represent a substantial shift in making such infrastructure cyber secure for both the public and private sector. This is to not to fall into the same traps that Germany fell into over the last two years with its decision making. 

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