Published July 14, 2020
Britain’s decision on Tuesday to reverse course and bar Huawei from any involvement in its 5G network is more than just a setback for the Chinese firm. It’s a sign that tensions with China are ratcheting up across the globe.
Britain’s decision was unsurprising given Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s frustration with China after it introduced the novel coronavirus into the world. Johnson had frequently stated that Britain needed to reevaluate its relationship with the Communist behemoth in light of the global devastation the virus has wreaked — including upon Johnson, who spent more than a week in intensive care after contracting the coronavirus. China’s suppression of freedom in Britain’s former colony Hong Kong merely added to Britain’s decision to fight for freedom rather than trust again in appeasement.
Johnson’s decision coincided with reports from the Trump administration that it was rethinking its own economic ties with China. President Trump had long signaled that he wanted a new trade deal with China that would increase Chinese purchases of U.S. goods and reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China. Now, with the U.S. economy suffering directly because of the coronavirus and China refusing to back down from its aggressive international behavior, Trump is reconsidering that possibility. If so, Trump may be setting the stage for a resumption of the trade war that defined his China policy during his first few years in office.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.