Editor's note: Bobby Naderi is a journalist, a current affairs commentator, a documentary filmmaker, and a member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
On Tuesday, March 12, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted the European Union (EU) Cybersecurity certification scheme for products, processes and services.The Cybersecurity Act is a scheme to ensure that certified products, processes and services sold in EU countries meet cybersecurity standards. MEPs also adopted a resolution calling for action at EU level on the alleged security threats linked to China's growing technological presence in the EU.
As well, MEPs expressed their “deep concern” about recent allegations by the United States - where nuance and unilateralism often prevail - that 5G equipment may have embedded “backdoors” that would allow Chinese manufacturers and authorities to have unauthorized access to private and personal data and telecommunications in the EU.
A woman visits the Huawei Cyber Security Transparency Centre in Brussels, Belgium March 5, 2019. /VCG Photo.
The so-called “deep concern” expressed by MEPs is unwarranted and the new Cybersecurity Act is equally, if not more, alarming for China-EU trade and growth. MEP's threat misperception only heightens mistrust as China has no intention to lace the EU infrastructure with logic bombs. The costs of cyber espionage pale beside the mutual benefits of a China-EU interdependent economy.
As such, the Chinese laws ask all IT enterprises to cooperate with the EU and other countries in safeguarding a very broad definition of global security and shared prosperity. In particular, reactions in the EU countries and the United States, ranging from adopting cybersecurity acts and security assessments to outright bans (as well as politically-motivated detention and trial of Chinese CFOs) are uncorroborated and counterproductive.
So, instead of providing little evidence on how Chinese firms pose cyber threats or abuse vulnerabilities when procuring 5G equipment, MEPs could simply ask their governments to diversify equipment from different vendors. They can introduce multi-phase procurement processes, and establish a strategy to reduce their complete dependence on Chinese cybersecurity technology - just in case.
In actuality, and on the principle of internet sovereignty, it makes no business sense for the second-biggest economy in the world to undermine the cosmopolitan promise of the multi-stakeholder system. China benefits too much - politically and economically - from the current system of multilateralism to pose any threat to the EU and its sovereignty. Ethics aside for a moment, it is counterproductive for Chinese growth.
Therefore, EU governments, consumers, and the industry need to value the truth and distinguish between fiction and non-fiction. The Asian giant is racing ahead with the world's biggest rollout of 5G technology for greater business, not friction, with the EU.
The next generation of wireless technology promises much faster speeds while using less power. Beijing is getting there first and the EU needs the Asian behemoth to kick-start the internet of things to connect millions of machines, appliances, and sensors at low cost.
Add in one more thing: In its 13th Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government describes 5G as a “strategic emerging industry” and “new area of growth,” and in its Made in China 2025 plan, which outlines its goal of becoming a global manufacturing leader, it vows to “make breakthroughs in fifth-generation mobile communication.”
China is making this work by leading wireless technology development on a global scale. China is leading in telecommunications - unlike the U.S. and the EU which are playing catch-up and politics. In response, Chinese tech companies are becoming innovative global giants, developing and monetizing services that use them - not weaponizing them.
If in the U.S. and the EU, the process is far slower that's because more infrastructure will need to be built out. Instead, they adopt cybersecurity acts, and when Chinese vendors and carriers need to negotiate contracts in good faith to install these sites, they signal resistance and express increasing alarm about alleged technology-related security risks posed by Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei and ZTE.
The Cybersecurity Act is just a piece in a larger ongoing geopolitical puzzle that Chinese companies will have to deal with in the EU.
Despite the challenging dilemma, the EU governments and companies are better off working with China's tech giants. The market is huge and far too ripe for global growth, especially when compared to more stagnant outlooks in Europe and the U.S.
While the new Cybersecurity Act is important, it will wrap around the EU's free market as it grips security. Far from isolating China's champions in this very dynamic area, such as Huawei, Lenovo, or Tencent, the Cybersecurity Act - if ratified by the EU Council - will handicap EU companies in the long term. This will never result in preserving profitable interconnections. The hope is that these companies will fight to alter the new law to mitigate negative implications.
There is strong evidence that China and the European Union have more to gain than lose through joint ventures and mutual trust in their intensive use of the internet of things, even as “deep concern” in cyberspace - political, espionage, and military - remains both frustrating and inevitable for all sides.
The folly is all too clear. Any legislative spiral of mistrust in the China-EU relationship will only undermine the mutual benefits of the information revolution. Fears about the paralysis of the EU's digital infrastructure or concern about China's meteoric rise is the worst of all worlds. This should never become an article of faith.