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Trending Issues: Coming to Terms with China’s Technological and Financial Leadership in the Indo-Pacific Region

By Denis Bright   

Australia’s incoming government in 2019 must come to terms with bans by the federal LNP on investment by Chinese technology firms on the application of new cyber technology.

Given Australia’s deep economic involvement with China, the logic of such blanket restrictions needs to be more thoroughly questioned in the context of action taken by other global players.

Bans on the involvement of Huawei in the development of 5G technology are not being implemented by all of Australia’s strategic allies in the Five Eyes Intelligence sharing network (FVEY). This network facilitates intelligence sharing between Australia and Britain, USA, Canada and New Zealand.

Agencies within the FVEY network may selectively share intelligence briefs with supportive countries worldwide. Systematic leaks to media networks can only be maintained if the member states of FVEY can reach agreements on their media briefs.

The consequences of irregularities in policy frames relating to investment by Chinese technological providers has been picked up somewhat belatedly by ABC News Online:

While Australia was quick to exclude Huawei equipment from its 5G network, several major allies including the UK are not convinced that a ban is warranted.

Germany and the UK have their eyes wide open to the alleged risks Huawei poses to their national security, but they also believe those risks can be managed.

Even Chuck Robbins, the chief executive of Cisco — one of Huawei’s main competitors — reportedly suggested on Sunday that fears of Huawei’s 5G dominance may be overblown.

The bans on Chinese technological investment may of course be part of an amateurish America First initiative by the Trump administration which is actually out of line with the professionalism of FVEY precedents since the 1940s. Playing the follow the US leader game by the federal LNP is a problem which a Bill Shorten Government may have to unscramble.

The folly of the ban on Chinese technology is of immense importance to stability of Australia’s slowing economy (The Guardian 7 March 2019):

Investment in the manufacturing sector is flat in the post-mining boom era:

The willingness of the federal LNP to forego investment from Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese technological companies comes at potential costs to the diversification of the Australian economy. It also imposes some gentle brakes on China’s technological expansion in the current Belt and Road era. The costs to the Australian economy are much greater than for China as a global economic superpower that wants a greater profile for its financial and high technology sectors.

ABC’s Online continues with critical coverage of the Trump Administration’s directives to its security allies on the issue of Chinese technological investment:

US Vice President Mike Pence used his speech at the 2019 Munich Security Conference last month to urge allies to turn their backs on Huawei, painting the telecommunications supplier as a severe security threat.

“We must protect our critical telecom infrastructure, and America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security system,” he said.

Clive Williams, visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for Military and Security Law, told the ABC that some leaders of the UK intelligence community would no doubt like to see the UK fall into line with the US, in order to safeguard the Five Eyes intelligence relationship.

But Professor Williams noted that the UK “had never been afraid to adopt contrary policies to the US and does not seem to have suffered in the past from doing so”.

US corporate priorities are being embedded in strategic relationships with partners in the US Global Alliance. Many of the US corporate giants are notorious tax evaders.

Even the centre-leaning French government of President Emmanuel Macron has taken some action to control the excesses of these corporate threats to a lack-lustre national economy:

France decided this week to introduce a tax aimed at companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, set to take effect on January 1. It will be the first European country to introduce a tax aimed specifically at the tech giants.

tax specifically aimed at multinational tech firms has been mooted in France for several years, but the catalyst for the government’s decision to introduce it now was the Yellow Vest protest movement.

The French finance ministry said on Monday the tax will bring in around €500 million per year to help finance the concessions – including a rise in the minimum wage and curtailing taxes on pensions – proffered by President Emmanuel Macron in a bid to appease the anger of the neon-jacketed demonstrators.

In Britain, there has been no outbreak of Sinophobia although this situation may change if Brexiters gained added influence through a leadership coup against Theresa May’s Government to achieve more accord with the Trump Administration:

Britain’s top cyber security official gave a vigorous defence of his country’s approach to Huawei, giving the clearest indication yet that one of Australia’s closest intelligence partners won’t be following Canberra and Washington in shutting the Chinese out of their 5G telecommunications networks.

While the text of our ANZUS treaty with the USA has not changed since 1951, recent developments in the current bans on Chinese involvement in 5G technology shows that there have been real qualitative changes in in our security ties to accommodate the directives to allies from the Trump Administration.

In contrast, even British conservative governments have encouraged the diversification of the Chinese economy as part of a commitment to improved global living standards. BREXIT is fostering a re-assessment of Britain’s ties to the other anglophone countries but is still out of step with the demands being placed on the use of Chinese technology in essential infrastructure investment projects.

The FYEP is currently divided on the issue of investment by Chinese technological firms and may actually be opposed to the decisions of the Trump Administration which are bringing intelligence sharing into the public domain.

Coverage of this issue by BBC Online is a real embarrassment to the professionalism of the FYEP Network. What happened to diplomatic discretion since the election of President Trump?

The US has told Germany it would curb intelligence sharing with Berlin if it allows Huawei to participate in its 5G mobile network.

The warning came in a recent letter from the US ambassador to Germany seen by the Wall Street Journal.

The US has been lobbying its allies to boycott Huawei due to national security risks.

The firm has pushed back against claims it poses a security threat including suing the US government.

US ambassador Richard Grenell said the US would not be able to keep the same level of co-operation with German security agencies if Germany allowed Huawei or other Chinese firms to participate in its next-generation 5G mobile network, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Richard Grenell’s excessive loyalty to President Trump brought an appropriate serve from Britain’s Financial Times:

Richard Grenell, a Donald Trump loyalist who took up his post as ambassador to Germany less than a month ago, said he considered the new Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to be “a rock star”, with the Breitbart report noting that Mr Kurz has been a “leading conservative on the topic of counter-Islamisation”.

Mr Grenell did not specify what particular brand of conservatism he would support, or by what means, but he said:

I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders. I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.

The truth is certainly out there in any objective assessment of the Chinese technological cyber investment. Very little is coming out of the current federal LNP or the US Ambassador to Germany.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a critical structuralist perspective. Readers are encouraged to continue the discussions in this current series of Trending Issues for Australians in this election year.

 

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17 comments

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  1. Mia

    This article justifies a change of government in Australia. Are we a nation of wimps who act against our national interest to please President Trump?

  2. AJ O'Grady

    Huawei products are worlds best. American protectionism will only offer an inferior product. Australia’s inferior NBN will not be able to handle 5G as it operates on fiber optics and is not compatible with Australia’s copper NBN.

  3. Leila

    We need to make our own decisions not be so influenced by America
    Huawei products will improve communication in Australia so why not take the best option

  4. Stella

    Denis, thanks for an interesting article on Chinese investment. Definitely an interesting topic in the media at the moment.

  5. Chris

    What will the Trump Administration do for Australia’s ailing manufacturing sector? Perhaps more warehouses with robots to replace people?

  6. James_Robo

    Why does the LNP follow a political buffoon like President Trump?

  7. Tessa_M

    Thanks Denis for your commitment to a free and independent Australia!

  8. Paul Davis

    AJ O’grady and Leila.
    “Huawei products are worlds best.” “Huawei products will improve communication in Australia so why not take the best option”

    Could you provide some technical back up for your glowing testimonials please, or are these paid for comments?

    Way back in 90s i knew someone in defence office in Canberra who commented on Huawei’s aggressive marketing of their ‘less than cutting edge’ electronic communication products to government, and a concern was the suspicion of ’embedded’ espionage software/hardware. But this may have been hearsay or as the commenters above would allege, a CIA smear.

  9. Alcibiades

    Paul Davis

    Could you provide ANY technical FACTUAL evidence to support your assertion Huwaei technology products, in particular, 5G for example, are not market leading, are supposedly a ‘National Security’ risk (WTF that may mean) ?

    The US government has utterly failed to do so. In fact so has the Australian excuse for a government. In fact the US government is being sued in court to factually prove its wholly unsubstantiated allegations, hm ?

    Your asserted recollection ~20-30 years ago, of an anecdotal conversation with someone, unidentified, competence and expertise re credibility unknown, re suspicions/espionage are precisely that. Hearsay & smear.

    Or is your provocative smear, unsupported and unsubstantiated comment, paid for ? Or alternately, merely possibly an expression of an indoctrinated lack of objective critical thinking ?

    Best of Luck.

    PS The past Director of UK GCHQ(IIRC), and to a lesser degree the current director do not agree with the US, nor your comment/smear. Niether does the German government & relevant Agencies. There are only four technology leaders globally in 5G for example, two Chinese & two European(IIRC), and both of the Chinese are also the most cost effective and value for money (IIRC) … hm …

  10. Phil.

    ‘ Your asserted recollection ~20-30 years ago, of an anecdotal conversation with someone, unidentified, competence and expertise re credibility unknown, re suspicions/espionage are precisely that. Hearsay & smear.’

    Come come, Mr Bond you derive as much pleasure killing as I do.

  11. Alcibiades

    Phil

    Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.

    My apologies for not responding to your comment re family service & consequences … was triggered.

    My own family history is similar, Grandfather, father, two uncles. Entered service against my fathers express wishes.

    Now … would dissuade anyone to ever consider entering service, with one possible exception, as a non Combat Arms entrant solely in order to obtain a recognised trade/degree qualification thence exit, for example, and even then reluctantly.

    Exploited, chewed up, abused, spat out and discarded.

  12. Phil.

    ‘Now … would dissuade anyone to ever consider entering service, with one possible exception, as a non Combat Arms entrant solely in order to obtain a recognised trade/degree qualification thence exit, for example, and even then reluctantly.’

    My youngest son joined to do a trade, he had a scholarship to do Art go figure. I recently got back from the UK he took his leave from Afghanistan in the UK I joined him there for three weeks we had a great time. I was not sleeping well until he returned to Oz a few months after . . It is all a huge high when you are young. I’m an x digger but never fired a shot in anger. But to stay on topic. The Chinese are the sleeping giants they unlike us, work their future in decade spans of time, unlike us until the next election. Would like to travel there one day. Been all over Asia but would like to get to China before the grim reaper comes for me.

  13. Paul

    Brilliant article Denis! This is a very interesting topic!

    So much more to come on this topic as technology continues to advance!

    We must balance the risks and leverage the opportunities as much as possible.

    On these issues governments must seek multiple objective 3rd party assurances before making decisions.

    Thanks so much for these amazing articles!

  14. Matters Not

    Alcibiades re:

    Could you provide ANY technical FACTUAL evidence to support your assertion ..

    Love it when people get down and dirty – intellectually speaking – first principles and all that. Perhaps we might extrapolate and deal with other claims made in other contexts. Try this as an opener.

    The Liberal National Party (‘LNP’) Welfare Card programme is really a LNP rort for the benefit of the Liberal and National Parties and their members, donors and supporters

    Now that’s one hell of an assertion.. But wait there’s more:

    Indue Pty Ltd, the corporation awarded the contract to manage the Welfare Card programme and to operate its underlying systems, is a corporation owned by Liberal and National Party members

    Note – a corporation owned by Liberal and National Party members. Can’t wait for some evidence. It sounds terrible. Needless to say there’s more re Indue:

    that donates to various Liberal and National Party branches around Australia

    Presumably there will be some evidence in the pipeline – like reference to dollar amounts connected to perhaps those who supposedly donated (Indue) and those who supposedly received (Liberal and National Party branches around Australia.) Essential evidence one would have thought – given that the ARC demands to know which organisations are ‘giving’ to which political parties, the when and the amounts. But before departing this farce, a few more pieces of nonsense.

    former chairman of Indue is none other than former LNP MP Larry Anthony … Anthony now holds his shares in Indue in his corporate family trust managed by Illalangi Pty Ltd

    Individually and collectively all the claims cited above are complete bullshit. And while I could demonstrate same, the onus of proof always remains with the claimants. Any contenders?

  15. Kronomex

    In a way the Communist Party of China is doing a form of payday loans and creating debt traps with their “helping” of other smaller less financially secure countries in order to exert more control. Some of the possible steps could well include sending people in to help them “resolve” the issues of debt and repayment. Once that occurs then that country over a period of time could well become a puppet state. Just a thought although not a pleasant thought.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-13/china-accused-payday-loans-pacific-us-ambassador-australia/10896280?section=politics
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-16/are-china-cheap-loans-to-poor-nations-a-debt-trap/10493286

    And…

  16. Alcibiades

    Phil

    To paraphrase a short, somewhat uppity fella, by the name of Napoleon …

    “When the sleeping Dragon awakens, the world will tremble”.

    Have visited many times on business (making the most of my personal time as an avid tourist tragic), though in years long past … fascinating milieu & culture from antiquity to ultra-modern … the melting pot of Shanghai was a standout for me, Nanking also.

  17. Alcibiades

    Kronomex

    Our new Ambassador from the good ol’ Us of A, was so so very very keen to say exactly that to the press literally seconds after our Abbott appointed backstop, the GG (see: The Dismissal), having even loaned him the official Rolls-Royce, officially accepted his presented credentials. Our stalwart, totally not by the balls GG, certainly appears to know who is really boss.

    What a guy, even expressed admiration for Canberras beautiful Lake Burley Campbell(sic)

    Hey ! Did ya know the US is in the process of demanding Cost Plus (150%), of all costs related to the priviledged ‘hosting’ nations of the ~600 plus military bases & concomitant personnel around the globe (Excluding, unacknowledged, covert & ‘Black’ sites & facilities). What generous fellas. Sure the Germans, let alone the EU countries will be thrilled with that, heh ?

    Read in some lefty, conspiracy ragsheet (IIRC) … Oh, now one remembers, Bloomberg News !

    MN

    So OT !

    Though a big C, for consistency.

    Rather naughty of you, hm ? You refuse to respond in appropriate threads, and consistently derail, with out of context quotes, tsk, tsk.

    Now get OT fella, or no soup for you.

    PS Any news when you might become eligible for pre-selection to … oh no ! Almost all nominations have closed Federally ! Maybe next election then … should be lotsa vacancies …

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