We have been at ‘cyber war’ for years with China, the world’s foremost mass-surveillance state, world-leader in industrial espionage equipped with armies of hackers mounting cyber-attacks on Western corporate and governmental infrastructure systems – and now we plan to hand over them control of our digital communications systems, and further enhance their technological lead.
So much for ‘taking back control’. More like ‘business as usual’.
According to Boris Johnson and his ministers, the involvement of Huawei in our 5G network is needed to ‘diversify’ the market. No need, then, to worry about the motives of the Chinese. And no need to worry that our closest allies have banned Huawei from involvement in their own wireless networks.
The Telegraph editorial today lamely asked how we got into this mess: ‘Why have British-based companies not developed this technology?’
Well, one answer is that we owe the Chinese big time. You cannot run a vast trade deficit year-on-year, import billions of pounds of cheap Chinese goods, and expect not to have to pay for them. The quid pro quo is that they make our consumer goods for us and in return we hand over our capital assets – businesses, property, securities, shares, you name it. Trump, thank goodness, can see this. Unfortunately, we could not care less.
Another is that British firms, ably assisted by City hedge fund managers, corporate raiders and asset strippers, have long specialised in maximising short-run profits on the backs of cheap imported labour, instead of investing long-term. Any firms that do the latter and reach a certain critical size are quickly snapped up, stripped down, or bought out by foreign competitors. Again, we could not care less – that is, unless it is banking and financial services that are in question.
It is sad to reflect that we once had so many firms at the cutting edge of these technologies: Plessey, Marconi, Racal, Ferranti, Cable & Wireless, Standard Telephones & Cables (who pioneered optical fibres). All gone.
What is to be done? For a start, ring-fence our most promising high-technology companies. Invest in them. Build and equip technical schools. Train our own engineers and technicians. Follow Trump and insist on fair balanced trade with China, an end to dumping. Put Britain first. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be what Brexit Tories armed with the mantra ‘Global Britain’ have in mind.
Yes, Britain will be open for business. But it will be Britain that is on sale.