At the Handelsblatt industrial summit, Chinese Ambassador Ken Wu said that any decision by the German government to exclude Huawei from its 5G network would have consequences.

Wu presumably wouldn’t make such a direct threat without sign-off from the political elite so it now seems to be official Chinese policy to directly retaliate against any countries that move to restrict Huawei. Until now any such threats would have been conveyed through diplomatic back-channels or merely implied in public, so this represents a major escalation from the Chinese.

The whole interview was conducted in German, but plenty of media that have a greater command of that language than we do have reported on it. One of those was Zero Hedge, which provided the following transcript of the key statement from Wu.

It is important to the Chinese government that Chinese companies in Germany are treated the same as others, without discrimination. If the German government made a decision that led to the exclusion of Huawei from the German market, it will have consequences – the Chinese government will not stand idly by. See, last year, 28 million cars were sold in China, 7 million of those were German. Can we just declare German cars unsafe, because we can make our own cars? No, that would be pure protectionism.

And China would never indulge in pure protectionism, right? Despite that last statement this seems to be a clear threat of tit-for-tat action by China. If not the whole car industry then maybe just one manufacturer or another industry. There are already reports that China has ordered its entire public sector to switch to Chinese IT gear, such is its dislike of protectionism, and it seems to be moving more towards a ‘two can play at that game’ policy.

While such a policy would seem to have some justification, it’s unlikely to be helpful to Huawei. While some countries may be cowed by such direct threats, the more powerful ones may be inclined to push back to demonstrate their own strength. Banning individual companies without any evidence of their wrongdoing would also undermine the legal appeals to due process Huawei is currently making in North America.


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