Oct 20, 2020 - World

Sweden bans Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE from 5G networks

A man walks in front of a wall with the Huawei logo
Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images

Sweden banned Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE from its 5G mobile networks on Tuesday, citing China’s “extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology.”

The big picture: Since the Trump administration announced its own ban last year, the U.S. government has increasingly pressured allies to follow its lead amid growing tensions between the West and China. In July, the United Kingdom became the first European country to announce plans to exclude Huawei from its networks by 2027.

Where it stands: The Swedish government has given telecom companies until 2025 to remove Huawei and ZTE equipment from their infrastructure.

What they’re saying: "China is one of the biggest threats to Sweden," said Klas Friberg, head of Sweden’s security services. He said Beijing's "extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology, research and development" is key to its economic and military development, according to the Financial Times.

  • “This is what we must consider when building the 5G network of the future. We cannot compromise with Sweden’s security."

The other side: The two Chinese telecoms have repeatedly denied allegations of spying. Huawei said it was willing to sign "no-spy" agreements last year.

  • There is no “concrete evidence” of national security threats, the Chinese embassy in Sweden said in a statement on its website.
  • Experts clash on whether or not Huawei and ZTE actually pose security risks. Some say they would be compelled to hand over information to the Chinese government even if they did not spy for Beijing.

The context: Huawei and ZTE are two of the largest telecom companies in the world, and a wide swath of businesses rely on their equipment. Huawei is the world's second-largest smartphone vendor.

Go deeper: Beijing's bullying has ruined its relationship with Sweden

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