CANADA’S DECISION TO ban Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment for the country’s 5G network suggests that flesh is, at last, being put on the bones of the comprehensive new approach to China that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been promising since last year.
Nor can it be a coincidence, this Bystander suspects, that the announcement comes in the wake of the United States preparing sanctions against Hikvision and ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to US allies in Asia, where he will unveil the United States’ long-awaited Indo Pacific Economic Framework.
Canada’s decision brings Ottowa in line with the other members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing community (the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand).
The decision to ban Huawei and ZTE had been expected once China freed two Canadian citizens last September who had been ensnared in the diplomatic row caused by Ottawa acceding to a request from Washington to detain Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, on suspicion of sanctions evasion.
Concerns among Canadia’s telecom operators about the extent of re-equipping that the bans will make necessary may have caused the subsequent delay. They will now have two years to remove any 5G equipment from the two Chinese companies already installed and five years to replace any used for current 4G service. However, there will be no government money to do so.
Beijing’s response has been boilerplate, accusing Ottowa of political manipulation and colluding with Washington. The Chinese embassy in Ottowa said in a statement:
China will comprehensively and seriously evaluate this incident and take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.
That suggests some foot-stamping but likely little if any material retaliation.