Ministers in the British government were warned six years ago of the risks of Chinese infiltration of critical infrastructure. But it appears that they did little about it.
A 2013 report by the U.K. Ministry of Defense describes the possibility that China could steal intellectual property, spy on citizens, and even install off-switches in critical systems by using state-bankrolled commercial activities to win contracts to build infrastructure. A leading British security expert now tells The Times that the report was “wholly ignored.”
In recent months, the idea that Chinese companies such as Huawei could be using a country’s own infrastructure for espionage has become more widely accepted. The U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan are excluding Huawei technology from certain sensitive projects, such as building 5G networks. Last week, the United States charged Huawei and Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou with stealing trade secrets, obstructing justice, and committing bank fraud in an effort to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The British government may finally be coming around to the potential threat posed by Huawei. In July, a team of Huawei employees overseen by the British government and tasked with monitoring the company’s threat to national security said they could provide “only limited assurance” that the risks have been mitigated. That report ultimately led to Huawei agreeing to spend $2 billion to allay British national security concerns in the same week that Meng was first arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S.