In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

NATO report exposes the West’s 5G quandary.

Posted by seumasach on August 13, 2019

NATO report exposes the West’s 5G quandary.

Cailean Bochanan

13th August, 2019

National Security Adviser, John Bolton has been in London this week hoping, amongst other things, to pressure the UK government into dropping Huawei from it’s 5G project. With a New Cold War in the air the Americans have raised the spectre of a threat to national security, of China using it’s 5G expertise to spy. We already spy on each other using the Five Eyes network to get round restrictions on intelligence agencies spying on their own citizens: China would be an unwelcome guest at this particular party. Bolton has already claimed his lobbying has provoked a rethink on behalf of the UK government in “appreciation” of the US point of view. If Brexit means anything at all it means rallying to the Americans , a return to Oceania and an Orwellian standoff with Eurasia: that is why Johnson is prime minister.

So, in conformity with this geopolitical realignment it is logical that the UK abandon it’s flirtation with Chinese technology and and put it’s Orwellian 5G project back in the safe hands of Western companies. What could be the problem? The problem according to a recent NATO study, “Huawei, 5G, and China as a Security Threat” is that Huawei “is currently the only company that can produce ‘at scale and cost‘ all the elements of a 5G network, with its closest competitors Nokia and Ericsson not yet able to offer a viable alternative”. In other words, Huawei is indispensable! Well, that is a problem.It is also a humiliation for the West: we have already lost the technological race for 5G.

So the question isn’t really whether Huawei should be involved in 5G or not, it’s whether we have 5G or not, at all. Well, I for one prefer that question. 5G is just one more nefarious telecommunications industry project threatening public health, as is extensively and reliably documented, as well as civil liberties and privacy. And it does so on a massively increased scale. It also has sinister undertones of transhumanism an ideological current which goes back to the English renaissance which views humanity as “work in progress”. It is familiar from the works of Francis Bacon, the Darwins and the Huxleys. The musings of Elon Musk on microchips in the brain are enough to make us nostalgic for the good old days. Can’t we just go back to 1984?

But returning to question of 5G or not 5G, what solutions does the NATO report come up with?

“With a binary choice of ‘take it or leave it’ not among the options – there are as of yet no equivalent alternatives to Huawei 5G technology; the West is neither able nor willing to afford a technological stagnation, and with the expected socioeconomic benefits in the promise of 5G, states will likely remain pragmatic in their approaches. Whether by issuing security guidance to reinforce the security of critical government and commercial functions, strengthening risk assessment and management processes, or agreeing on transparency and accountability mechanisms, national responses will likely seek to improve risk mitigation.”

Logic doesn’t seem to be a NATO strongpoint: with no available alternatives to Huawei the choice is precisely ”take it or leave it”. The rest is what the French call “langue de bois” and the anglo-saxons would call, more bluntly, “bullshit”. So in addition to not recognising the problem NATO doesn’t offer any solutions.

The truth is that the Western model, or, more specifically, the Anglo-American model has exhausted itself in terms of major infrastructural project development. The scandal in the UK over prematurely obsolete schools and hospitals built through private finance initiatives or so-called public/private partnerships has dramatically exposed this reality. A children’s hospital in Edinburgh has just been “completed” for what will eventually amount to half a billion pounds. However, it can’t be opened due to structural flaws and already union representatives are talking about the need to demolish it. The US/UK are bottom of the league when it comes to fibre optic connections into people’s homes. Verizon won a contract to provide fibre optic to homes in New York. They failed to do so and are being sued by the City authorities. In fact, 5G is a poor man’s fibre optic but it still requires massive, and politically impossible, investment in masts placed in close proximity. Unless, of course, you have Huawei technology.

In contrast, the Chinese excel in long term, developmental and infrastructural projects. Through the Belt and Road Initiative they are building roads, bridges, airports, ports , high speed trains. Unfortunately, it also involves 5G, for the moment. If 5G was being carried exclusively by Western companies the American NSA would have unrestricted access to all data and therefore, total political control. The Chinese have effectively blocked that. However, we, the people, do not have to choose between a total surveillance state run by the USA or by the Chinese. Not because slaves can’t choose their masters but because we choose not to be slaves. We can simply reject 5G outright as we have every right to do as it constitutes an assault on our persons and our privacy. Italy leads the way in doing precisely that, with growing opposition at very level of civil society, the professions, local authorities and NGOs. Just as 5G epitomises an emerging technocratic elite governance, the opposition to it is a reaffirmation of democracy and citizenship. Let’s make technology our servant and not our master.

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