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China is starting to have too many enemies




The UK’s decision to exclude the Chinese company Huawei from the list of technology suppliers for the new 5g network has given China a blow. Until recently, Beijing hoped that the British would confirm the initial decision to entrust Huawei with the supply of non-essential parts for the new mobile telecommunications networks, but two recent developments have made it unsustainable.The first is the escalation of the war waged by the United States against Huawei.

In May, Washington banned suppliers of US technology from selling semiconductors to the Chinese company. Given that US technology widely used to manufacture advanced semiconductors, which are essential for Huawei’s products, the Chinese giant will remain cut off from supplies.

That will make it almost impossible for them to make components for 5g.A more dangerous prospect for the British than any potential Chinese espionage. No responsible government can afford to take the risk of losing a key supplier.

That means that Huawei had the days counted from the moment Washington pulled the trigger in May. It was all about figuring out when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was going to give the bad news to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The second development, which has made it politically easier for Johnson to decide on Huawei, is China’s imposition of the new national security law in Hong Kong. The measure, approved by the Chinese parliament on June 30, put an end to the autonomy of the former British colony. From a London point of view, it is a violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which Beijing promised to protect Hong Kong’s legal system and civil liberties until 2047.

Perhaps Chinese leaders thought that the United Kingdom was too weak to react. They were wrong. London has decided to take a position in the case of Hong Kong, and Huawei is an easy target.

At this point, China may react, and it has the means to do it. It could affect British companies doing business in its territory like the British banking giant HSBC, for example, given that its operations in Hong Kong represent half of its profits. Beijing could also cancel its financial transactions on the London stock exchange and reduce the number of Chinese students to whom it is possible to attend British universities.

The truth is that these reprisals could eventually prove counterproductive. Removing the HSBC from Hong Kong would deprive the city of its role as a global center of finance, because China would not be able to find another bank capable of replacing the British one. Considering the tension between the United States and China, it is difficult for Beijing to accept institutions like Citibank or JPMorgan Chase as successors of the HSBC.

Likewise, restrictions on universities would harm China. Currently, around 120,000 Chinese are studying in the UK, and there are not many viable alternatives for them. The United States assesses the possibility of limiting access to Chinese students justifying it with the risks for national security.

Beijing has already threatened Australia to curb the flow of tourists and students. 140,000 Chinese students are in Candian universities, which have a limited capacity. Considering the diplomatic stalemate between Ottawa and Beijing after Canada authorized the extradition to the United States of Huawei’s financial director Meng Wanzhou, it is difficult for China to send other students over there.


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