At a glance.
- Developments concerning Huawei in the UK, India, Japan, and the US.
- Australian measures against Chinese hacking and influence operations.
- Canada rejects "hostage diplomacy."
- Russian disinformation about medical research labs in the Near Abroad.
Huawei's fortunes with policy makers, local and national.
CNBC reports that the South Cambridgeshire District Council, the responsible local authority, yesterday approved initial construction of Huawei's broadband chip research center. That center had come under criticism elsewhere in the UK as official British sentiment continues to stiffen against the security risks the Chinese manufacturer is believed to pose.
In what probably represents a step toward excluding Chinese companies from participating in India's 5G infrastructure, that country's Department of Telecommunications will review what role if any Huawei and ZTE will play in building out the country's 5G. Huawei had been tentatively admitted to India's 5G trials last December, the Telegraph India says, but that could now change. Relations between China and India have grown significantly worse in the first half of 2020, with casualties on both sides during skirmishes along the two countries' disputed border.
Developing national alternatives to Chinese hardware manufacturers is an obvious measure governments might take to shore up 5G security. The Wall Street Journal reports on two such efforts. In Japan, telecom giant NTT intends to take a $600 million stake in equipment manufacturer NEC to do just that. Part of NTT's concern comes from the need to have secure supplies should US sanctions effectively block Huawei from exporting to Japan. The US Government is mulling a similar push to develop a domestic supplier, whether by building from the ground up, developing a domestic champion from within an existing tech company, or by facilitating the acquisition of a European firm (like Ericsson or Nokia).
Honey traps and raids down under.
The Australian Financial Review has an account of university researchers' "honey trap" that caught Chinese cyberespionage (by the threat group Stone Panda) against industrial control systems in Western Australia.
Australia's government has also grown increasingly suspicious of the reach and effect of Chinese disinformation. Parliamentary hearings on the threat are in progress, and, more immediately, investigators have raided the home of a politician believed to be, possibly, working under Chinese influence. The New York Times reports that authorities raided the home and office of Shaoquett Moselmane, a suburban Sydney Labor politician and state legislator. Mr. Moselmane had recently praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the way he's organized China's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is to say the least not the view of the Australian government, which has been calling for an international investigation into the origins of the pandemic and of China's role in its spread.
The search warrant was executed as part of an ongoing investigation, but neither the authorities nor Mr. Moselmane have any further comment. It doesn't appear to be a partisan move by Prime Minister Morrison's government. Mr. Morrison is a Liberal, but the Labor Party was quick to announce that it was suspending Mr. Moselmane's party membership as soon as news of the raid came out.
Canada won't trade Meng Wanzhou for two citizens detained by China.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to consider releasing Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, currently facing extradition hearings that would send her to the United States for prosecution in matters related to bank fraud and sanctions evasion. China is holding two Canadian citizens on espionage charges; their detention has been widely regarded as "hostage diplomacy," retaliation for the legal proceedings against Ms Meng. The BBC reports that Prime Minister Trudeau has said that releasing Ms Meng would imperil other Canadians living or traveling abroad.
Former biowar labs turned to good use (but Moscow would rather you saw it otherwise).
Old Soviet biomedical research and monitoring facilities in the former Soviet Republics that are now independent states in the Near Abroad were converted to high-end medical research labs at the end of the Cold War. Like most such establishments, they had a potential for dual use: legitimate plague-monitoring stations can equally well serve as biological warfare development labs. And in the Soviet Union, many of them had acquired that mission. Foreign Policy describes how those facilities, left underfunded and unsecured when the Soviet Union broke apart, received American funding and assistance that enabled to operate safely as legitimate medical research institutions. Under the Nunn-Lugar Program, named after its two Senatorial sponsors, the labs were demilitarized. The Nunn-Lugar facilities in both Georgia and Kazakhstan have both played an important and positive role in their countries' response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that's not to Russia's liking. Moscow is operating a disinformation campaign pushing the (false) narrative that the Kazakh and Georgian labs are part of a secret US biowar infrastructure the Americans (probably with British help) put in place to hold Russia at risk of biological attack.