Be wary of the Chinese technological behemoth, goes the current cry from many circles in Australia’s parliament. Cybersecurity issues are at stake, and the eyes of Beijing are getting beadier by the day.
The seedy involvement of Australia in the Solomon Islands, ostensibly to block the influence of a Chinese company’s investment venture, is simply testament to the old issues surrounding empire: If your interests are threatened, you are bound to flex some muscle, snort a bit, and, provided its not too costly, get your way. Not that Canberra’s muscle is necessarily taut or formidable in any way.
The inspiration behind Canberra’s intervention was an initial contract between Huawei and the Solomon Islands involving the Chinese giant in a major role building the high-speed telecommunications cable between Sydney and Honiara. Even more disconcerting might be the prospects that it would work, supplying a cable that would enable the Chinese to peer into the Australia’s own fallible network.
What made this particular flexing odd was the spectacle of an Australian prime minister congratulating himself in securing tax payer funding for the building of a 4,000 kilometre internet cable even as the domestic National Broadband Network stutters and groans. Another juicy point is that Huawei was banned from applying for tendering for the NBN in 2012.
As the world’s second largest maker of telecommunications equipment was told, “there is no role for Huawei in…