EU – China
The ongoing rivalry between the US and China for technological leadership is pressuring other countries to choose a side. China has threatened retaliation against EU countries if they give in to US demands and also ban Huawei in Europe. However, giving in to these US demands does not seem to be a real option for the EU and its Member States as it is aiming for strategic autonomy to protect the security of its citizens. In 2015, China and the EU had already agreed on a joint declaration to explore research cooperations, such as identifying the most promising radio frequency bands for 5G. Furthermore, they agreed on promoting easier access to the Chinese market for the EU telecom and IT industries, as well as openness in access to 5G network research funding.
However, a change in policy thinking has taken place since then. A greater focus is currently placed on being wary of China’s legal and political systems, as well as the consequences it might have for threats such as espionage, cyberattacks and the disruption of critical infrastructures. Today, the EU is avoiding blanket bans of telecom vendors on national security grounds and has instead implemented regulations to keep the security risk manageable. With this in mind, the European Commission has issued recommendations and a 5G toolbox to help the member states assess possible security risks of specific vendors and to forge their own path.
While China had previously been referred to as a “strategic partner”, the 2019 EU-China Strategic Outlook (p.4) rebranded China as a “partner”, but also labelled it as a potential competitor and rival regarding 5G. A certain asymmetry in the market exists between Chinese and EU companies, in which China has been taking the upper hand. As Huawei already controls 30% of Europe’s 5G market, European vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson seem to have lost out.
This text was last updated: 26.03.2021
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