lørdag 19. desember 2020

UK and China: how the love affair faded

In 2003, the Cabinet Office decided to allow the Chinese state-backed Huawei telecommunications network to start supplying BT for the first time. Nobody bothered to put a note on the security implications into the red box of the then business secretary, Patrica Hewitt. A minor discussion, solely on the competition implications, did take place.

The then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, used to daily cooperation with BT to secure wire taps, was shocked and concerned when he heard of the plan, but was told: “It is nothing to do with you. These are issues we can control.”

The path was set fair for the open trading relationship with China which reached its zenith with George Osborne and David Cameron in 2015. “No economy in the world is as open to Chinese investment as the UK,” Osborne boasted on a five-day visit to China in September of that year. In a speech to the Shanghai stock exchange, he vowed London would act as China’s bridge to European financial markets. “Whatever the headlines … we shouldn’t be running away from China,” he said. “Through the ups and downs, let’s stick together.”