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  • Writer's pictureElena K.

Americans fear China's 5G

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

An English translation for my original article in Greek for CNN Greece.


China made it clear back in 2015: it wants global domination in the technology sector, and the U.S. believes that it's not going to stop until it achieves this goal.

In an interview for CNN Greece, I spoke to John Sitilides, a Washington D.C. government affairs specialist and diplomacy consultant to the U.S. Department of State under contract, who describes the potential consequences of China's 5G technology in Europe and the U.S.

"The biggest foreign policy mistake made by the U.S. in the last 20 years was ignoring China," says Sitilides.

The President of China, Xi Jinping, announced five years ago a strategy called "Made in China 2025." The strategy aims to make China a world dominator in 10 out of 12 technological sectors, including robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, etc.

According to Sitilides, China will need to invest heavily in developing these technologies, and it will do so by acting in a mercantilist fashion, inconsiderate of free-market competition in Europe and other places. For example, China's actions will threaten Germany, an industrial pioneer with the potential to become a world-class leader along with the U.S.

Sitilides explains that there are claims that Beijing supports 5G telecommunications by providing subsidies of about 70 billion dollars' worth of tax breaks and direct assistance to Huawei, a move that threatens companies like Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung.

He continues by emphasizing that in 2017, the Chinese government passed a national security law "that compels every Chinese citizen, entity, and organization to surrender all data requested by Beijing if it feels that there is a national security threat to the Chinese Communist Party or the People's Republic of China.

The result of this law will allow any data that Huawei accesses through 3G, 4G, or even future 5G networks to reach the hands of the Chinese government and be used for their own purposes.

"This is a backdoor into the infrastructure and telecommunications systems of leading economies in Europe and everywhere around the world," says Sitilides.

He warns that China will destroy other countries' economies by using methods that violate fair competition surpassing the U.S. economy by 2030-2035.

"The biggest concern is that Beijing will exploit Huawei's entry into the infrastructure telecommunication networks of leading economies to gain military advantage over the west in ways that could be very dangerous," says Sitilides.

However, he emphasizes that the U.S. will respect other countries' decisions to allow China's 5G technologies to compete with other companies, but adds that countries like New Zealand, Canada, and Japan have already excluded Huawei.

"We're entering a new Cold War between the U.S. and China based on only the "Made in China," strategy, and China's determination to become independent of the west in global technologies. Additionally, China is exploiting its access to western technology to threaten allies and achieve regional dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, and that is a threat to the world's open free trading system," he says.

Per Sitilides analysis, if some countries accept China's 5G network, the strategic relations between those countries and the U.S. will be affected negatively. Adding to that, President Trump believes that countries that adopt China's 5G technologies compromise their security and data protection.

But the real question is, can the U.S. provide an alternative?

"At the moment, no American company can compete directly with Huawei, but there have been talks that Cisco could work with Ericsson or Nokia to create a common American-European 5G network," says Sitilides.

As a result of this cooperation, trading relations between the U.S. and E.U. could improve significantly. Mr. Sitilides does not find it problematic that Ericsson and Nokia are not located in European countries because he believes that Scandinavian countries have a very close relationship with Europe.

Nevertheless, it seems like the U.S. is looking for solutions to what they consider a future economic and military threat.

"China is not a peaceful country anymore," Sitilides concludes.


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