Huawei: Out of the US on suspicions of spying - but allowed to run a cyber security centre in Britain!
The timing of the announcement reeks of political expediency and appeasement. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, (accompanied by a big retinue of entrepreneurs and businessmen) has just returned from a three-day commercially-focused visit to China.
After staking a claim to the moral high-ground on an earlier trip and making a big point of meeting the Dalai Lama, the long-exiled religious leader of Tibet, Mr. Cameron found himself in bad odour with the Chinese government and was effectively barred from entering the People's Republic of China thereafter. A planned visit in 2012 was "postponed" under mysterious circumstances.
The experience evidently chastened him and this time around he let it be known that he had "no plans to meet Tibet's spiritual leader again." Having proved himself to be a toothless bulldog, with his tail between his legs, his head down and promising to "respect" and 'understand" China's political stance and agenda whilst backpedaling on human rights issues like a man in a canoe discovering that he is about to take a trip over the Niagara Falls, the Prime Minister was welcomed back into China to talk (mainly) about bi-lateral rather than pan-European/Chinese trade issues.
The attached business delegation representing some 120 UK companies did well, securing £5.6 billion worth of orders over the course of the three days.
When the PM and his entourage returned to Britain it was announced that the UK authorities have decided to allow Huawei to continue to run and expand a cyber-security centre in Oxfordshire - subject to a review to ascertain that the government may retain "confidence in the security of the UK's telecommunications networks".
And this despite the fact that the parliamentary intelligence and security committee has reported that Huawei's involvement in the UK's telecoms network does raise important issues of national security - particularly as China is regarded as being one of the biggest global perpetrators of state-sponsored cyber espionage.
Huawei equipment is already installed in various parts of BT's national network infrastructure and remains in place although various security agencies have concluded that China may well be able to spy on UK comms traffic via "back doors" embedded in Huawei kit. Huawei denies any such back doors exist, that it spies on anyone or that it has any links whatsoever with the Chinese government or military. And if you believe that, there's a short-term but well-paid job available now at the North Pole to help Santa pack Christmas presents. Sledge travel and as much reindeer steak as you can eat included.
Huawei's Oxford facility has been open since 2010. Its purpose is to test new hardware and software for security risks before it is deployed in UK networks. I'm sure we'll all rest much easier in our beds of a night secure in the knowledge that the stalwart chaps and chapesses from GCHQ, down the road in genteel Cheltenham, will be on hand to pop into Huawei's facility now and then to check that the company is playing by the rules. After all, the Chinese do love a game of cricket.
Last year in the US, the powerful the House Intelligence Committee told American telecoms companies not to do any business with Huawei because potential and actual Chinese government influence on Huawei poses a very real security threat.
Meanwhile, Down Under, the Australian government, based on advice from its security apparatus, has prevented Huawei from bidding for involvement in any part of the country's massive new National Broadband Network.
Maybe the UK government knows something that the US and Australian governments don't? Or maybe it doesn't.