(Viewpoint) Canada’s decision on Huawei’s participation in the 5G network keenly awaited

World | 18 Oct 2021 3:31 pm

The settling of the long saga of Meng Wanzhou’s high profile case last month, in a manner which was acceptable to all the parties concerned, was a victory of diplomacy and has created a situation that could lead to the relationships between Canada and China turning a corner. The release was followed by the two Michaels being able to travel back to Canada and one could feel that all parties involved were careful on the optics, and wanted this settlement to be conducive for further positive dialogue. This no doubt provides a window of opportunity for Canada-China relations to reboot and try to achieve the good relationship that they have traditionally shared. 

These developments took place after the call between the Chinese and US Presidents on September 9, 2021, who had not spoken for more than seven months. It was a sign that the US side was willing to improve communications with China. President Biden had asked for the call showing concern that the relationship between the two countries had reached a stage where intervention was required by the top leadership to try to get the relationship back on track so that the senior officials of the two countries could sit across the table and talk in a constructive way. This was evident from the statement by the White House after the call saying both parties “agreed to engage on issues openly and straightforwardly” which is a clear departure from the previous statements where the Biden administration’s policy towards China can be described with the 3Cs: Competition, Cooperation and Confrontation. After the phone call one hoped that US would look at more Competition and Cooperation as the Confrontation policy had not really worked in the last 9 months. The failure of the US policy in Afghanistan has also put added pressure on the Biden administration to try to get a working relationship with the Chinese counterparts. The phone call between the President’s was followed by a meeting between Yang Jiechi and Jake Sullivan in Zurich where the Whitehouse readout said that the meeting “followed up on the September 9 phone call between President Biden and President Xi in which the leaders discussed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition” between China and the United States. The Chinese readout called the talks “constructive and conducive to enhancing mutual understanding”. The meeting also agreed on the Biden-Xi Virtual Summit later in the year which is of great significance as this would require a lot of in-depth meetings between the officials of both the countries to set a substantial agenda for the meeting. 

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau has gone on record saying that the decision on Huawei participating in the 5G network would be taken within weeks. Canada did not do anything to force Huawei during the detention of Meng in Canada and it seems that this would be the way forward. Huawei’s Canada operations employ more that 1,100 Canadians and the R&D spending has increased substantially. Founder of Huawei Ren Zhengfei has talked about the importance of talent in the pursuit of the company’s goals in the future and has stressed on the drive to attract foreign talent and also partner with Universities to create an environment to be able to attract the best to Huawei. 

Even during the pandemic, the bilateral trade between Canada and China has seen a health growth of about 20 percent in the first half of 2021. This trend should continue in the second half of the year and with the relationships having a chance to get back on track we can hope to see a bigger increase in bilateral trade and investments. 

The decision to allow Huawei to participate in bidding for the 5G network is an important one. There is no doubt the pressure from the US which is trying to influence countries in this regard. But at the same time we have countries like Germany and France and the UK who have decided that they would allow Huawei to participate in their 5G network. The general consensus in that if Huawei is left out the bidding process the price, speed and the technology of the 5G network would be significantly compromised. The decision makers in Canada should take these things in consideration and surely the security concerns that every country has about the network can be discussed and settled with Huawei. 

Canada has always stood with the side of having an independent foreign policy and is a country which follows the rule of law. One hopes with all the politicking happening on this issue, Canada would decide the issue based on its own national interests and also what is good for its economy. The relationship with China is a crucial one for Canada and the wish of all the people who are invested in this relationship is that these two countries can work together for mutual benefit. This is the desire and shared wish of the Canadian diaspora living in China and the Chinese Canadians who have very close links with China.

The author - Atul Dalakoti is executive director at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) China.

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