Wants Portugal “to protect legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises”
China has said today that it expects Portugal to adopt “rational” and “autonomous” policies, after a Portuguese government advisory body ruled the de facto exclusion of Chinese companies from the development of fifth generation (5G) networks.
“We hope the Portuguese side will make rational policy choices autonomously and adhere to the creation of an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment,” says a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry sent to Lusa in Beijing, adding that “building walls and barriers” and “breaking ties” only “harms the most vulnerable”.
“Mutually beneficial cooperation is the only right path,” the statement stresses.
Last month, the Security Assessment Commission, under Portugal’s Higher Council for Cyberspace Security, released a deliberation on the “high risk” to the security of 5G networks and services of using equipment from suppliers that, among other criteria, are from outside the European Union, NATO or OECD and whose “legal system of the country in which they are domiciled allows the government to exercise control, interference or pressure on their activities operating in third countries”.
The ruling did not name companies or countries, but it came after years of pressure on allied countries from the United States to exclude Chinese technology from telecommunications infrastructure.
Washington points to China’s National Intelligence Law, which stipulates that “all organisations and citizens shall support, assist and cooperate with the State in matters of national intelligence”, explains Lusa.
Huawei has since categorically denied the accusations, stressing that Chinese law “does not require Huawei to install hidden mechanisms in networks or equipment that allow unauthorised access to data and information”.
But this hasn’t really cut the mustard.
Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden, have already banned Huawei from participating in the development of their 5G networks, while the EU is reported to be considering a mandatory ban on member States that don’t act the same way.
The move comes as concern rises in Brussels that some national governments are dragging their feet on this issue, officials have told the Financial Times.
EU internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton told the bloc’s telecoms ministers at a meeting last week that only a third of EU countries have banned Huawei from critical parts of the bloc’s 5G communications, despite Brussels’ recommendations (and warnings). “This is too few. And it exposes the union’s collective security,” he said.
Yet today’s statement from the Chinese government clearly sets out to persuade Portugal to rethink its decision.
“We expect the Portuguese side to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and adopt practical measures to attract foreign investment and expand cooperation opportunities,” it says.
The statement may well be a precursor to news that Chinese companies operating in Portugal may be used to exert pressure on the government if this ‘softly softly approach’ doesn’t work.