Amidst a tumultuous leadership spill in the Liberal Party, the Australian government was able to conduct some business this week. Yesterday, it announced that it had banned Chinese telecommunications companies from tendering contracts to the nation’s wireless carriers for 5G equipment.
The move comes as relations between the two countries have reached a low. There have been suspicions that Chinese financial contributions have influenced Australian candidates for political office.
Meanwhile, a government source to Reuters says that the ban was squarely targeted at Huawei, a company that was denied access to contracts for the fiber-based National Broadband Network and cable-laying in the Pacific Ocean. It and ZTE have been feared to be subject to extrajudicial direction from the central government, siphoned data from network consumers as well as compromising the security of grid itself. US political organizations have been working to block Huawei and ZTE from having a part in their communications layout.
Huawei called the ban “politically motivated” in a statement:
Chinese law does not grant government the authority to compel telecommunications firms to install backdoors, listening devices, or engage in any behavior that might compromise the telecommunications equipment of other nations.
The company already has 4G equipment in the continent and it said that there’s little practical difference in the architecture of 5G, other than stricter protocols protecting users’ security and privacy.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang also criticized the move, calling it detrimental to both parties.
We urge the Australian government to abandon ideological prejudices and provide a fair competitive environment for Chinese companies’ operations in Australia.
Outgoing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had tried to soothe ties between Canberra and Beijing in a speech two weeks ago, but with the ban in, Turnbull out and a more conservative Scott Morrison set to take his place, the Sino-Aussie link may be in as awkward of a position as it ever has been.