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.
A 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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