President Donald Trump's decision to ban China's Huawei Technologies from dealing with U.S. companies drew sharp criticism from political leaders around the world Thursday, but also elicited support from others as the 5G networking giant finds itself in the eye of a global trade war storm.
China's Foreign Ministry described the move, which prevents U.S. firms from doing business with Huawei or its 70 affiliates without prior U.S. government approval as "disgraceful and unjust" and insisted the state-backed group is "willing to engage with the U.S. government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security."
Huawei, the world's biggest telecoms equipment maker and a key plank in China's ambitions towards dominating 5G networking around the globe, was placed on the 'Entity List' by the U.S. Commerce Department late Wednesday, a move that effectively prevents it from acquiring components and technology from American companies without prior government approval.
The decision will "prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests," according to a statement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and followed an executive order from the President that declared a national emergency linked to "threats against information and communications technology and services in the United States".
"China has emphasised many times that the concept of national security should not be abused, and that it should not be used as a tool for trade protectionism," said China Foreign Ministry spokesman Gao Feng. "China will take all the necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese firms."
However, China also formally arrested two Canadian citizens Thursday -- Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor -- and charged the pair for allegedly attempting to steal state secrets in a move many see as an attempt to apply pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deny a U.S. extradition request for former Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver last December at the behest of authorities in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been pressing European leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to keep Huawei shut out of regional plans to develop 5G networks, even going so far as to invoke the legacy of former British leader Margaret Thatcher in a speech in London last week.
"Ask yourself: would the Iron Lady be silent when China violates the sovereignty of nations through corruption or coercion? Would she allow China to control the internet of the future?" Pompeo said. "Insufficient security will impede the United States' ability to share certain information within trusted networks. This is just what China wants - to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs."
France's President Emmanuel Macron said he wouldn't block Huawei from doing business with his country, adding it was "not appropriate" to be "launching now a technological war or a trade war."
President Trump's decision found favor, however, among members of the so-called "Five Eyes" alliance of English-speaking economies that share intelligence, including Australia and Canada.
"I believe there are many security concerns as it relates to Huawei and the development of Canada's 5G," said Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer said Wednesday. "We know the government of China has acknowledged its role in certain cyber-attacks."
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose government banned Huawei from participating in 5G rollouts last year, told the U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper that the risks of allowing the China-backed group in "cannot be effectively mitigated."
"You can't design away around it," he said. "The view that the Australian government took under my leadership last year was that the high-risk vendors, which includes Huawei of course, should not be permitted to be involved in the 5G networks."