China and Global 5G: Getting the Questions Right | Wilson Center
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China and Global 5G: Getting the Questions Right

Webcast available

Webcast Recap

New developments in the global debate about Huawei’s political reliability emerge daily. As this discussion continues, the UK, Germany, and Italy seem to welcome a limited Huawei role in their 5G infrastructures despite American warnings. The White House is rumored to be considering a ban on Chinese telecommunications equipment from America’s 5G build-out process. Unfortunately, pronouncements on Huawei and other Chinese technology firms are often as confusing as they are emphatic.

Is Washington concerned about Huawei as an espionage and cyber warfare threat, as a commercial challenge, or as a Chinese asset in the geostrategic competition between the U.S. and the PRC? The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States hosted a discussion that defines the terms and debunks some of the myths of this rapidly evolving issue.

Selected Quotes


Robert Daly

“Much as Beijing and Washington disagree, one of the issues that both sides now seem to agree on is that innovation – mastery and leadership of 5G systems, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, emerging biotechnologies – the mastery of technologies henceforth is going to be the key to hard power, economic power, soft power, and global leadership.”
“Our technophilia and our technophobia are merging with our Sinophilia and Sinophobia, and have become a way of asking about our own national wellbeing and place in the world.”
“[Our public discourse] often reads as though the installation of Chinese-made 5G routers and servers may be a key factor not just in competition between global tech firms, but it often reads like a key factor in the historic struggle between good and evil.”


Jimmy Goodrich

“It’s not just a U.S.-China question either. Korea, Japan, Europe, Canada – where do they play in the global ecosystem? Whether it’s 5G, whether it’s AI, whether it’s semiconductors, there’s no single country that can dominate the full stack of the technology and the applications. In order to make the pie big for everybody, it has to take the world working in concert to move forward and deploy these technologies together.”
“[China] is keen on industrial planning, and that is something that’s been historical about China, and moving forward particularly under the current administration in China, it seems to be strengthening and accelerating. That brings both benefits and drawbacks for China’s technological ecosystem.”   
“Thinking about this competition and/or the development of this technology in the future, it has to be ‘How do the U.S. and China figure out how to compartmentalize and manage their security concerns and risk?’ and then ‘How do they also figure out how to unleash the technology?’” 


Dennis Wilder

“We are entering unknown territory. This is really a new industrial revolution that we are on the verge of – and so, with all this promise comes an unknown realm for national policymaking. And national policy making, under the best of circumstances, is difficult, and tends to be behind the times.”
“This reassessment has been building for some time; this is not the Trump administration. This is across the political spectrum of the United States, and one of the things that we saw is that China is not playing, is not playing as much, by the international-liberal-order rules as we expected.” 
“I come down on the side of not banning China’s companies, except in those areas of highest national security concern. China would not rely on U.S. suppliers in its national security telecommunication network and we shouldn’t do the same, but banning Chinese companies entirely puts us on the road to a digital cold war that, I think, would have enormous, detrimental effects on both sides.”


Naomi Wilson

“Currently, we see an array of concerns, and I think this is emblematic of policymakers and U.S. citizens trying to come to terms with the competitive and cooperative dynamics between the U.S. and China – and to what extent economic security also affects national security.”

“Over the past decade, the U.S. government has become somewhat used to China gaming the system and playing by its own rules. There had been a general thought that bringing China into the fold, bringing China into the international system, would help normalize Chinese practices over time. This has worked in some respects, and not others.”

“Policymakers are asking a lot of big, complex questions that will have significant ripple effects for the tech sector, for the economy, and U.S. technological competiveness, and I think now is a really important time to step back and unpack those questions and unpack the assumptions that are leading to those questions and the potential policy solutions on the table – and this is where the private and public-sector partnership is essential.”



  • Robert Daly

    Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States


  • Jimmy Goodrich

    Vice President, Global Policy, Semiconductors Industry Association
  • Dennis Wilder

    Managing Director, Georgetown University U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues
  • Naomi Wilson

    Senior Director of Policy, Asia, Information Technology Industry Council