Australia bound to be caught up in Huawei fallout

Australia bound to be caught up in Huawei fallout, by Greg Sheridan.

The decision by US judicial authorities to put the Chinese telco giant Huawei and one of its most senior staff, Meng Wanzhou, on trial is likely to become one of those watershed moments of modern geostrategic history. …

US authorities have charged Huawei with stealing intellectual property and trade secrets, and ­financial fraud around disguising its commercial relations with Iran in order to disobey US laws on sanctions. Meng, who was arrested in Canada, has been charged with a narrower range of related offences. Huawei denies all wrongdoing. …

Almost every big US law enforcement and intelligence agency has weighed into the matter. …

FBI director Christopher Wray says: “Huawei has repeatedly refused to respect US law.” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says: “Huawei and its chief financial officer broke US law and engaged in a fraudulent financial scheme.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says: “These indictments are law enforcement actions and wholly separate from our trade negotiations.” Acting Attorney-General Matthew Wh­i­t­aker says: “These are very serious actions by a company that appears to be using corporate espionage.”

Wow.

These cases, and possibly others to follow, could be in the courts for years. They unveil an ugly ­reality. The challenges resulting for Australia are greater than for any other nation.

Why? Because we have a bigger proportion of our trade with China than any other nation. We are the only Five Eyes Western nation located in Asia. We live in a region that is the centre of US-China strategic rivalry. Beijing has already shown a tremendous keenness to subvert our politics, constrain our strategic options and direct our behaviour. …

US and British agencies have told us that the biggest sources of hacking, cyber-espionage and theft of intellectual property emanate from the Chinese state. Off the record, the national security agencies of almost every Western nation tell the same story.

Given that fact alone, it is ­unthinkable to allow Beijing to dominate 5G networks around the world, but especially in our country. … Western agencies believe that if Chinese companies provide the 5G technology they will be able to steal limitless amounts of information and, should they ever wish to, disable or even control operational networks. …

Trump came to office determined to correct the trade imbalance between the US and China. He did not initially articulate the hi-tech, cyber security and 5G problems. US sentiment against Beijing’s gaming of the trade system was growing irrespective of Trump and would have found strong expression in a Democratic administration. …

Xi, on the other hand, has completely reversed the direction of institutional, political and even ­social development for China. He has abolished term limits and effectively made himself president for life. … Beijing’s emerging social credit system applies mass information technology and unprecedented surveillance in a hi-tech version of George Orwell’s totalitarian state, reversing earlier cautious trends towards liberalisation and an ­independent legal system.