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Germany to phase out Chinese components in 5G networks

July 11, 2024

The decision affects components produced by the Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE. Berlin cited security concerns in justifying its decision.

View of the Huawei Germany headquarters in North Rhine Westphalia on October 15, 2019.
Berlin says the decision to phase out the use of components from Chinese giants such as Huawei was due to security concerns.Image: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa/picture alliance

Germany will phase out the use of Chinese components from telecom giants Huawei and ZTE in its 5G networks in the next few years because of security concerns, the Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.

Components from the Chinese giants will be barred from 5G core networks by the end of 2026, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said. "Critical management systems" from Huawei and ZTE in 5G access will be replaced by the end of 2029.

What did Germany say?

The 5G networks are part of Germany's "critical infrastructure" and are key to the functioning of various sectors, ranging from health to transport to energy.

"We are protecting the central nervous systems of Germany as a business location, and we are protecting the communication of citizens, companies and the state," Faeser said. "We must reduce security risks and, unlike in the past, avoid one-sided dependencies," the ministry said.

The ministry said the decision followed negotiations with companies that operate Germany's 5G networks: Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone\ and Telefonica. Agreements with the three companies are set to be signed.

What is industrial espionage?

How has China reacted?

On Thursday, Beijing said Germany's government should evaluate providers of 5G technology without political consideration.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said politicizing economic, commercial and technological issues would only disrupt cooperation.

Lin said Chinese officials hoped that Germany would respect facts, make the appropriate decisions and provide a transparent and nondiscriminatory market environment for businesses from all countries.

He said Chinese companies such as Huawei had been operating for several years in Europe and had contributed to building infrastructure, while creating jobs and paying taxes. He stressed there was no evidence they were jeopardizing national security.

Fears that China overtaking car country Germany

Tense Sino-German relations

Berlin and Beijing have enjoyed close economic ties for years. However, since the war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis after ending ties with Russia, Germany has been seeking to reduce its economic dependency on China.

Last year, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government developed a relations strategy that referred to a "systemic rivalry" with Beijing. The strategy cited a need to reduce the risks of economic dependency amid a desire to work on challenges, including climate change and trade ties.

China was critical of the strategy.

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rmt/lo (AFP, AP, dpa)