5G is the infrastructure of the future. Huawei could play a crucial role in expanding the super-fast telecommunications network, which raises concerns about potential spying by the Chinese state. Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier does not close the door to "Anne Will".
It is the infrastructure of the future: 5G is the fifth generation of the mobile Internet and mobile telephony network. 100 times faster than its predecessor 4G, 5G will become the new technical standard in the next ten years. This is no longer just about cell phone telephony, but about digital applications, sensors and devices that are networked and that will increasingly determine our everyday lives and that of industry, for example in the field of autonomous driving. The problem: Germany is often quite analog and lags behind in terms of telecommunications network. A nationwide network expansion is already urgently needed if Germany wants to remain economically competitive in the coming decades. The topics of human rights and espionage are on the Sunday round. (Photo: NDR / Wolfgang Borrs) Of course you need the right know-how for the new network. Just stupid, and this is what ARD talk about Anne Will is all about when the leader in 5G technology is called Huawei and comes from China. Because network expansion and new technology means: sabotage and espionage are possible, personal data and Germany's internal security are at stake here. Will debates in her Sunday evening round with her guests: Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister of Economics and Energy, Linda Teuteberg, General Secretary of the FDP, Dieter Kempf, President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Margarete Bause, spokeswoman for human rights policy of the Bundestag faction Alliance 90 / The Greens, Kristin Shi-Kupfer political scientist at the Mercator Institute for China Studies and Georg Mascolo, head of research cooperation of NDR, WDR and "Süddeutsche Zeitung". The ARD Talkerin thus asks a big, symbolic question: Can you trust Huawei, China – Germany's most important trading partner? And how can the 5G network expansion really be brought about safely? "No influence by the Chinese state" There are no real results in the end, the debaters really do not come into conversation with each other. Of course, in the 5G expansion, one wanted to make sure that the Chinese state would not be able to influence Huawei's bid and, of course, nobody wanted to see human rights violated, not in China or anywhere else in the world. But no one wants to give up trade with China. This shows that Germany needs China and not the other way around and that China is already so powerful that the totalitarian system can afford to oppress and monitor its own citizens – because Western partners are tied to the economic power of Beijing. Trust or not. But at the beginning: Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier gets himself into trouble when he is asked if he considers Huawei to be trustworthy. The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs squirms and expresses himself to a clear confession, because one could "not so generally answer". "We want the highest level of security and there is a verifiable need to ensure that the Chinese state has no influence," he continues. But the explanation how exactly to accomplish that, he remains guilty. The CDU man wants a law, but how it should look is also left open. Huawei builds surveillance systems for China Huawei is a private communications company, but those who succeed in China are always somehow linked to the government. And Huawei now sells more smartphones than Apple. The group is also building up a surveillance system with face recognition for China. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas calls Huawei "dependent on the state". Above all the USA fear that the enterprise helps Peking with the espionage. But also in Germany one wants to be careful that in the 5G technology not something is blocked, or in the software updates can be installed, which can be used for espionage purposes. It is also clear that in the arbitrary state, the government can at any time take the right to access data of the company and without a court decision of independent lawyers, but, to put it bluntly, simply by calling the Communist Party.Altmaier therefore would like to "strengthen European manufacturers" , but they let produce their "production parts in China". Huawei has long since relegated corporations like Nokia and Ericsson, especially in the area of 5G, and is even more cost effective. Linda Teuteberg also wants a federal decision on the subject, the whole is "a political question". However, the FDP Secretary General does not want a special law for Huawei, but one that can rule out in this debate the "influence of the government of China" and other states. For them that is also a "system question": Rechtsstaat vs. Arbitrariness. Dieter Kempf similarly calls China a "systemic competitor". Linda Teuteberg wants a legal regulation to exclude the Chinese influence. (Photo: NDR / Wolfgang Borrs) However, the BDI president wants to consider the problem technologically and says: "No matter where the 5G supplier comes from, the main thing is the new network is secure and the data and transmission paths are protected." Whether he trusts the government, Anne Will wants to know from him. "There is no complete security in the digital and not in the analog world," is his response. "Strengthening Democratic Forces in China" Kempf also points out that the 5G mission to a US company would be dangerous, too Since the Patriot Act, the Washington government has had the right to gain access to German data. After all, the US would be a constitutional state, notes Margarete Bause. For the spokeswoman for human rights policy, the Federal Government had "criminally neglected" the topic of security of the telecommunications network as the "main artery of society" for many years, especially with regard to the USA and the NSA. And now she is more and more in "the dependence on China". Georg Mascolo goes further and explains that the German government has "tried to keep the Huawei discussion as small as possible so as not to cause any trouble with China". Berlin rated Huawei in 2013 as untrustworthy. The journalist expresses what Altmaier and also Chancellor Angela Merkel avoid: One has to find a different way than Huawei. For Mascolo lead a "sham discussion", because in the end you can never achieve a final data security. There were always plans for such collateral from Berlin, but it had not originated an actual policy. "We need a common European digital strategy," explains Bause later. All the discussants agree. Nobody explains how exactly this should look like. After all, Mascolo notes that while Europe has an interest in becoming more independent, so far it has "only talked about it". And what about human rights now? Also there are all d'accord: They would of course have to be addressed anytime, when you contact China. But can you do business with dictators without being morally guilty? "We can not only have partners from countries that are democracies, as we imagine them," says BDI CEO Kempf. Altmaier agrees with him: "If we were only dealing with democracies, then that would be very few countries in the world." Does such a declaration of bankruptcy from China, which wants to knock down the protests in Hong Kong with the military if necessary and the Uighurs' Muslim minority in Gulaks einpfercht? After all, the Green Party politician Bause says, "we have to stand up for our liberal system", because it was also about the democracy that Europe has long struggled for: China wants to "spread their own totalitarian idea" and that should not happen. Political scientist Kristin Shi-Kupfer also wants to "strengthen democratic forces in China" and send clear statements that Beijing will not let everything go through. One of these signals might be if Huawei did not win the 5G grid expansion. The US, Australia and New Zealand have already done so. But how much room for maneuver does the federal government have over China? Until then, we will continue to surf the 4G network in Germany. Incidentally, this was built up to well over 50 percent by Huawei.