China Media Calls for 'Public and Painful' Retaliation Over U.K. Huawei Ban

Chinese state media has demanded retaliation against the U.K. after the government announced it would ban companies from purchasing all Huawei 5G equipment for their British telecommunications networks over security concerns.

All Huawei equipment must be removed from the U.K. telecommunications network by 2027 and British mobile providers will be prohibited from buying Huawei equipment from the end of 2020.

The decision marked a U-turn by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had previously approved limited access for Huawei to the country's nascent 5G network.

Johnson has come under pressure from Conservative Party lawmakers to do more to block potentially problematic Chinese investment in the U.K. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, his government appears to be pivoting to a tougher stance towards Beijing and abandoning the "Golden Decade" of U.K.-Chinese relations declared by a previous Tory government.

China's ambassador to the U.K. Liu Xiaoming described the decision as "disappointing and wrong," adding: "It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries."

But the state-run Global Times newspaper—often used to express more nationalistic and combative sentiment from within the Chinese Communist Party—was more aggressive, calling for a punishing response to the British decision.

"It is necessary for China to retaliate against the U.K., otherwise wouldn't we be too easy to bully?" the Global Times editorial read. "Such retaliation should be public and painful for the UK."

London-Beijing relations have deteriorated over the controversial national security law imposed on Hong Kong earlier this month, which criminalizes anti-government dissent in the former British territory.

London has been at the forefront of international criticism of the legislation, and has announced a pathway to citizenship for some 3 million Hong Kongers who hold British National Overseas passports, a hangover from the territory's days as a British possession.

China reacted angrily to the offer, accusing the U.K. of meddling in domestic affairs and threatening retaliation.

Britain's fellow Five Eyes intelligence sharing nations—the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand—have all also spoken out against the national security law and taken action against China.

Global Times framed Britain's Huawei ban as part of a Five Eyes strategy against Beijing. "The U.K. is an important member of the Five Eyes, which now follows Washington's policy loyally," the newspaper wrote.

"The U.K.'s decision means huge economic loss for it. It is highly doubtful that other European countries will make the same decision."

"But it's unnecessary to turn it into a China-U.K. confrontation," Global Times argued. "The U.K. is not the U.S., nor Australia, nor Canada. It is a relative 'weak link' in the Five Eyes. In the long run, the U.K. has no reason to turn against China, with the Hong Kong issue fading out."

China, U.K., Huawei, 5g, telecommunications, Hong Kong
The logo of Chinese company Huawei is seen on the screen of a Huawei mobile phone in London, U.K. on July 14, 2020. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images/Getty