During a press conference to announced his recovery plan for the country, UK PM Boris Johnson was asked if China’s growing oppression of Hong Kong had affected his thinking on Huawei.
“We are deeply concerned about the decision to pass the national security law in Beijing, as it affects Hong Kong,” said Johnson. “We will be looking at the law very carefully…to understand whether it’s in conflict with the joint declaration between the UK and China.
“On Huawei and other matters the position is very simple. I’m not going to get drawn into Sinophobia because I’m not a Sinophobe. On the other hand, I do want to see our critical national infrastructure properly protected from hostile state vendors. So we need to strike that balance and that’s what we’ll do.”
From that statement it seems clear that the UK government views Huawei as a hostile state vendor, which seems like a step up from its previous designation as ‘high risk’. Johnson did appear to struggle to find the right words to describe Huawei in the context of its presence in the UK, so that could have been a slip of the tongue, but until advised otherwise we must take the PM at his word.
The unprompted denial of Sinophobia was probably indicative of the balancing act Johnson is still trying to perform in his relationships with both China and the US. He still seems reluctant to go all-in on team America, with its overt hostility to China, but still has to be seen to talk tough on the matter of security. Who’d be a politician?