The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a US think tank, is reporting that even though most of Europe has blocked Huawei’s ability to build 5G infrastructure, the Chinese telecommunications giant might still be able to access European data and influence the industries through academic partnerships and deals in AI research and smart city development. According to a CEPA report:
March 23, 2021 As of Spring 2021, most of Europe has blocked Huawei’s ability to build 5G infrastructure, or at least increased the scrutiny around 5G infrastructure bids. […] Even so, Huawei has stated that it is not concerned about geopolitical headwinds, with the company’s chairman, Eric Xu, stating: “[The Chinese government] will not stand by and watch Huawei being slaughtered on the chopping block.” […]
In Europe, Huawei has concluded that there is more than one way to skin a rabbit. The company has now shifted the battlefield to artificial intelligence (AI), one of the many technologies that could flourish with 5G’s faster speeds. Take Slovakia. The country ostensibly remains on the fence on the use of Huawei in its 5G infrastructure, but the Slovak Technical University in Kosice recently announced its intent to establish an AI research center in tandem with the Chinese firm. Other schools in Slovakia, including the University of Zilina, are working with Huawei on “safe city” initiatives, described by critics as a means to export authoritarianism because of their emphasis on digital surveillance. 5G was always a means to an end for China, part of that end included dominating the commercial, intelligence, and military applications for AI. Partnerships with European universities on AI and smart cities are a backdoor for China to access European data, and influence the industries of the future without the need for Huawei 5G infrastructure.
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The CEPA report concludes that even though US pressure has helped push many European allies to place stricter security restrictions on their 5G telecommunication networks, there is an urgent need for new legislation in Washington and Brussels to improve the transparency of funding for university high-tech projects.
The BBC reported in October 2020 on the results of a UK Parliamentary inquiry that concluded:
It is clear that Huawei is strongly linked to the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party, despite its statements to the contrary,” the committee concludes. “This is evidenced by its ownership model and the subsidies it has received.”
In March, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported about two Europe-wide pro-Huawei disinformation campaigns involving a network of fake websites peddling pro-Huawei content.
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