Chinese telecom giant Huawei is willing to sign a “no-spy” agreement with countries including Britain, the firm’s chairman said on Tuesday, as the head of NATO said Britain must preserve secure mobile networks.
Liang Hua visited Britain as the government weighs the risks of allowing the Chinese company to help develop its 5G infrastructure.
“We are willing to sign ‘no-spy’ agreements with governments, including the UK government, to commit ourselves, to commit our equipment to meeting the no-spy, no back-door standards,” Liang told reporters.
The British government is in the middle of a furious debate over whether to let Huawei roll out its next-generation mobile service.
The private Chinese firm currently has the most advanced and cheapest 5G capacities in the world.
But the United States has warned its close ally that it might have to limit security and intelligence sharing with Britain if it allowed China to play a significant role.
Washington’s broader geopolitical concerns have been heightened by a law enacted by Beijing in 2017 obliging Chinese companies to aid the government on national security issues.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was also visiting Britain, said network security remained of utmost importance to the Western military alliance.
“Huawei and 5G network is extremely important,” Stoltenberg told a London business conference.
He conceded that Britain and all other NATO members had the right to make their own decisions about China and 5G.
“Having said that, of course, what matters for NATO is that these decisions are made in a way that makes sure that they have secure networks,” Stoltenberg said.
“There is no way we can escape addressing those issues,” he added.
“We are going to make sure our networks are safe,” Stoltenberg said.
The Huawei debate has pushed Britain into the heart of China’s heated battle for global dominance with the United States.
It has also splintered May’s cabinet between those who view China as a vital trade partner in Britain’s post-Brexit future and ministers who side with Washington’s view of Beijing as a threat.
May fired defense minister Gavin Williamson - one of the cabinet’s big critics of China - earlier this month over a leak alleging that her government will allow Huawei to play a limited 5G role.