Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia, and Kosovo have just joined the “Clean Network” project promoted by the Trump Administration. The initiative, which is already supported by dozens of nations, could represent a lethal blow to the Chinese telecommunications company, Huawei.

“With the triple signing of 5G security MOUs [memorandum of understanding], Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Kosovo have joined the Clean Network,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on October 27.

“This growing coalition of Clean Countries and Clean Companies also includes 27 NATO, 25 E.U., and 11 Three Seas states, as well as many top companies in the world,” the senior official said on Twitter.

The “Clean Network” initiative was launched by the U.S. government in August 2020 for “safeguarding the nation’s assets including citizens’ privacy and companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).” 

According to the State Department, “Clean Network” addresses “the long-term threat to data privacy, security, human rights and principled collaboration posed to the free world from authoritarian malign actors.”

“The Clean Network is rooted in internationally accepted digital trust standards. It represents the execution of a multi-year, all-of-government, enduring strategy, built on a coalition of trusted partners, and based on rapidly changing technology and economics of global markets,” explains a statement from the department led by Pompeo.

Although some countries that have signed the MOU have not directly mentioned Huawei, it is estimated that joining this initiative will allow 5G network bidding processes to be undertaken without the Chinese company’s participation.

Several European nations have already banned the telecommunications company from 5G networks in their territories, arguing that it represents a risk to national security.

Sweden not only advanced in this sense but also made it clear that it will not allow the use of equipment from the Chinese company ZTE either. The infrastructure already installed by both companies should be removed before January 1st, 2025.

“The influence of the one-party state on the country’s private sector implies strong pressure on [Chinese] companies to act under the state objectives and national strategies of the Chinese Communist Party,” said the Swedish Telecommunications Authority. The authority justified its veto on Chinese suppliers, adding that in this context the Swedish security forces consider that the state and the Chinese intelligence service “can influence and put pressure” on Huawei and ZTE.

With this measure, Stockholm joined other European countriesin addition to nations such as Australia and Japan—that banned the installation of equipment from Huawei, the company accused of having close ties to the People’s Liberation Army of the CCP.

In France, the Chinese equipment manufacturer will not be subject to a total ban on the 5G mobile internet market. Still, operators already using Huawei will have operating authorizations limited to eight years.

This month, it was announced that the companies Orange and Proximus, dispensing with Huawei, chose Nokia to provide them with the equipment and infrastructure necessary to build 5G networks in Belgium.

In the case of Italy, although it has not yet banned Huawei, and joined the One Band, One Route initiative last year, its primary telecommunications operator has decided not to use the Chinese company’s 5G equipment.

In early September, Telecom Italia’s CEO, Luigi Guibitosi, said there would be no problem developing 5G even if Huawei were banned, explaining that its principal partner is Sweden’s Ericsson, according to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

While Germany has not banned Huawei’s participation, according to the SCMP, Berlin is trying to introduce new rules to ensure the security of 5G networks that would amount to a de facto exclusion of the Chinese company.

For its part, the National Defence Committee of the British Parliament stated this month that there is clear evidence that the company headed by Ren Zhengfei is in collaboration with the Chinese communist party. The committee urged the government of Boris Johnson to withdraw all equipment from the telecommunications company by 2025.

In July, the Prime Minister had ordered Huawei to be off Britain’s 5G networks by 2027. However, the defense committee said that the purge should take place two years earlier, even if such an action is a reward for the incumbent operators.

“The West must urgently unite to advance a counterweight to China’s tech dominance,” explained Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood.

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