This is an editorial. It was written by a member of our editorial board and expresses the opinion of Berlingske.
A dramatic incident involving China making commercial threats to the Faroe Islands and a secret audio recording has cracked open two long-standing propaganda stories about the Chinese technology giant Huawei and China.
Huawei likes to present itself as an independent, privately owned company which does not take orders from the Chinese state. We are safe to leave our future 5G mobile networks in Huawei's hands, the company insists.
At the same time, China's Communist leaders seek to present themselves as respectable international partners with peaceful intentions.
But these two narratives do not chime well with information which came to light this week in the Faroe Islands despite attempts to keep it secret. Last week, the Faroese government was granted an injunction against the Faroese TV station Kringvarp Føroya reporting on the content of an explosive audio recording. This injunction remains in force, but this Tuesday Berlingske was able to reveal what the recording contained.
In the audio clip, a Faroese government official states that the Chinese ambassador to Denmark, Mr. Feng Tie, threatened leading members of the Faroese government in order to secure a contract for Huawei to develop a 5G network. If the company was not awarded this contract, the Chinese government would drop a proposed free trade agreement with the Faroe Islands.
This information exposes the extent to which the Chinese state is willing to use its economic power to blackmail a tiny nation into securing contracts for Huawei. It is thus a mere illusion to think that Huawei is a private company like any other. Huawei is a pawn in China's quest for global technological dominance.
Over the last few years, the U.S. has warned with increasing fervour that big Chinese technology companies such as Huawei could be forced by China's Communist regime to spy on the West. The Danish Defence Intelligence Service has also established in its latest threat evaluation that Chinese law requires China's companies to hand over information to the Chinese intelligence services.
We must not be naïve, then, to think that America's warnings about China relate only to economic competition between two equal super powers. China is a dictatorship which has built its power on extensive state control over private companies, and it is thus difficult to separate the private from the state in China.
As has now been revealed in the audio recording, the Faroese lagmand, or prime minister, Mr. Bárður Nielsen, informed the Chinese ambassador in no uncertain terms that the Faroese government would not interfere with the selection of a 5G network provider for the Faroese telecoms company. This is an example of political leadership which should inspire the government in Copenhagen.
»We must refuse China's economic gun-boat diplomacy and uphold our democratic principles and our right to defend ourselves.«
We cannot have another Tibet flag case. We must refuse China's economic gun-boat diplomacy and uphold our democratic principles and our right to defend ourselves.
The Faroe case shows that we need to find common ground in the Danish Commonwealth in the face of Chinese attempts to divide us and establish strategic bridgeheads. It is also necessary to pass a Danish law that would enable authorities to screen companies seeking to invest in strategic infrastructure.
Denmark should raise this matter in the European Union, but we should also react strongly in our own right. The foreign minister, Mr. Jeppe Kofod of the Social Democrats, owes us an explanation as to how the Foreign Ministry acted in advising the Faroese government on the injuction – and he should immediately call the Chinese ambassador to Denmark for a meeting. Mr. Feng Tie needs to be told forcefully that we do not accept economic threats.
Translated by Bibi Christensen from the original which can be found here (in Danish).