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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

Go deeper

Jan 19, 2021 - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

Jan 19, 2021 - World

Top DOJ official John Demers on the agency's China Initiative

Assistant Attorney General John Demers speaks at a press conference on Oct. 19, 2020. Photo credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images.

John Demers, the assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice's National Security Division who leads the department's China Initiative, spoke with Axios about his view on the initiative's progress since its launch in 2018 and what he hopes to see in the coming year as Biden assumes office.

The big picture: The China Initiative made headlines with dozens of major indictments but also sparked controversy over its targeting of scientists with links to the Chinese government.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.