Tapia’s 5G comments anger Chinese Embassy

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The Chinese Embassy here yesterday took umbrage to US Ambassador Donald Tapia’s caution to the Jamaican Government on the acquisition of 5G technology, describing the American’s comments as “filled with Cold War mentality and hegemonistic mindset”.

According to Xia Shaowu, chief of political section at the Chinese Embassy, Ambassador Tapia’s allegations about China and Chinese enterprises “fully expose the consistent US practice of arbitrarily interfering in other countries’ domestic and foreign policies and forcing small and medium-sized countries to choose sides”.

Ambassador Tapia, in an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer which was published yesterday, had made the point that the island’s financial sector would be hit hard if the Government engages 5G technology from a Chinese source.

He said his country has national security concerns with 5G technology developed by Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE and reiterated his Government’s position that it will reassess how it interconnects and shares information with countries that compromise their 5G security.

“As for consequences, it’s gonna affect banking, any financial transaction from this island,” Tapia said, adding “that’s the biggest consequence you have, that your financial institutions and the finance of Jamaica stops.”

Another negative consequence of utilising Chinese-developed 5G, he said, was access to aid in times of disaster.

“If you were to have a hurricane, earthquake or any type of natural disaster, we cannot and will not move into a communist Chinese network because it gives them the opportunity to download all the data that we have,” he told the Observer.

As expected, Tapia’s comments rattled Beijing’s envoys here who said they “firmly reject and strongly condemn the remarks”.

Xia argued that 5G technology is for the benefit of the people in every country worldwide and should not be politicised.

“Huawei and other Chinese enterprises have been doing business in Jamaica in accordance with market principles and international rules, and abide by Jamaican laws and regulations. Operating in Jamaica for more than a decade, Huawei is a localised company with a track record in high-quality products, solutions as well as cybersecurity,” Xia said in his statement.

He accused Tapia of stretching the concept of national security and abusing his status as an ambassador to influence Jamaica from carrying out normal exchanges and cooperation with certain Chinese enterprises.

“Such practice goes against market economy rules and the World Trade Organization principles of openness, transparency and non-discrimination. It is a blatant act of bullying, which both China and Jamaica should firmly oppose,” Xia said.

The United States, Xia argued, “is in no position to point fingers at China or Chinese enterprises in terms of threatening other countries’ national security”. He said Chinese enterprises have been cooperating with local partners all over the world and there has not been a single cybersecurity incident like those revealed by Edward Snowden or WikiLeaks.

“Not a single tapping or surveillance operation like PRISM, Equation Group or ECHELON has there been. Furthermore, not a single country has produced evidence of so-called threatening national security by products and services provided by Chinese companies,” he said.

Added Xia: “Confucius once said, ‘What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.’ China believes that all countries, regardless of size, have the right to independently develop foreign relations based on their own interests. Attempts to prevent countries from carrying out normal exchanges and cooperation through pressure and coercion will not succeed and will end up becoming a laughing stock of the international community.”

He said that China and Jamaica are strategic partners who, over the years, have developed good relations based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence. Both countries, he added, have “conducted friendly cooperation on the basis of consultation on an equal footing and mutual benefit, bringing tangible benefits to the Chinese and Jamaican people”.

He also said that China will work with Jamaica to expand and deepen the bilateral strategic and cooperative partnership.

“The mutually beneficial cooperation and the friendship between the Chinese and Jamaican enterprises and people have laid a solid foundation for the development of bilateral relations. We support the joint efforts of the business community and people from all walks of life in both countries to continuously enhance mutual understanding, foster friendship and deepen cooperation so as to accumulate more positive energy for the improvement and development of China-Jamaica strategic relations,” Xia said.

He also encouraged Tapia to focus on matters in the US, such as “racial injustices, the spike in COVID-19 cases and the contracting economy”.

Tapia was responding to an article published by the Sunday Observer on October 18 reporting Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) saying that Jamaica is far advanced in preparing the regulatory and monitoring regime for the proliferation of 5G services in the island.

In the interview on Friday, Tapia pointed to the United Kingdom Government’s decision earlier this year banning mobile providers in that country from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after December this year. The Boris Johnson Administration also ordered the companies to remove all Huawei 5G kits from their networks by 2027.

London’s decision came after Washington imposed sanctions on the Chinese firm, which the Americans say poses a national security threat. Huawei has denied the accusation.

On Friday, Ambassador Tapia said the issue of trust was extremely important in the establishment of a 5G network.

His comments echoed those by the State Department which, in a document shared by Tapia, stated that “trust cannot exist when vendors are subject to secret manipulation by an authoritarian Government, like the People’s Republic of China, that lacks an independent judiciary and rule of law that prevents misuse of data”.

The 5th generation mobile network is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices. It is designed to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform experience to more users.

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