The U.K. announced on Tuesday that the Chinese technology giant Huawei would build some of the country’s burgeoning 5G network in the coming years — a major rebuke to the Trump administration, which had urged European allies to ban the company altogether.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government cast the decision as a compromise, emphasizing the fact that it will not allow Huawei to help construct the most important parts of its new network, and will put limits on the percentage any one company can build. Still, the decision is a clear setback for Trump, who now finds his maximum-pressure campaign against Huawei flagging.
The White House has consistently cast the tech giant as a menace. It has warned that allowing it access to the new networks could create a backdoor for Chinese spying on Western countries, and the U.S. has threatened allies that it might withhold intelligence from them if they don’t take a hard line.
The U.S. has won some concessions from Japan and Australia on the issue. But while the Trump administration has been successful in pressuring Europe to effectively blacklist Iran in the aftermath of its decision to pull out of the Obama nuclear issue, Europe is showing considerably more assertiveness on Huawei. France has said that an outright ban of the company is not necessary, and Germany appears to be leaning in the same direction.
Initial reaction to the announcement from Trump allies was predictably unfavorable. In a statement, Republican senator Tom Cotton said that the U.K.’s decision was akin to “allowing the KGB to build its telephone network during the Cold War.”