A Sting Exclusive: “Digital iron curtain makes no sense in 5G era”, by China’s Ambassador to EU Mr. Zhang Ming

Ambassador Zhang Ming of Chinese Mission to EU
Mr. Zhang Ming, China’s Ambassador to the EU. Copyright: Chinese Mission to EU, 2019.

This article was exclusively written and published first at The European Sting by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, Mr Zhang Ming. The opinions expressed in this article belong to the distinguished writer.


Recently, 5G technology and its security have been on everyone’s lips in Europe. Quite often, a Chinese company was mentioned. As Chinese Ambassador to the EU, I do not intend to speak for a company. I prefer to share my views from a broader perspective.

5G technology is a product of global innovation and cooperation. Its industrial, supply and value chains are so widely spread and interlinked that almost everyone has a stake in it. Drawing an iron curtain would therefore have an impact on all, Chinese, Europeans, Americans, and others alike. Such an attempt would upset global economic and scientific cooperation, undermine the principles of free trade and fair competition, disrupt market order, and eventually, hurt the interests of every consumer.

It is perfectly understandable to see unease about the potential vulnerability of 5G, as it is indeed opening a brand new horizon in our daily life. No country can afford to be naïve on this. For each and every 5G company, meeting high security standards holds the key to customer trust and sustainable development. I could not think of any company which would like to ruin itself by being slack on security issues. Whether there are security risks or not requires a well-informed and facts-based technical judgment, not politically motivated bashing or fear-mongering, still less pressuring and coercion.

It is a sad truth that our world is imbued with security challenges. Cyber insecurity is one of them and has been with us ever since the invention of the Internet. To keep our cyberspace safe and secure, more action is needed from both public and private sectors, and global cooperation and coordination is the only right way to go. It is even more so in a 5G era. Discrediting, pressurizing or putting restrictions on a selective few would simply not work. Such discriminatory moves serve no one’s good.

China and the EU have a wide range of shared interests in defending cyber security. The EU has over the years taken substantial steps to protect cyber security and data privacy, while China has always been committed to fighting all forms of cyber crimes. To enhance communication on cyber security, we need to put into good use the existing dialogue mechanisms, be it multilateral ones within the United Nations or bilateral ones between China and the EU.

Some European friends have a misperception of China’s National Intelligence Law. Like any other legislation, the National Intelligence Law should be viewed as an indivisible whole. It provides that China’s intelligence work must be law-based, give full respect to human rights and uphold the legitimate rights and interests of individuals and organizations, while it stipulates that individuals and organizations shall support and assist with national intelligence work. Therefore, it is advisable to look at the law in a holistic way rather than in a one-sided and out-of-context way. The Chinese government calls on Chinese companies operating overseas to strictly observe laws and regulations of the host country, has and will never ask Chinese companies to engage in illegal activities.

In the past 40 years and more, China-EU cooperation has come a long way. Chinese companies value the EU market, because of its openness and huge opportunities, and more importantly, because of the EU’s firm commitment to multilateralism and the rules-based global order. It is our hope and belief that the EU will continue to act in the spirit of fairness and non-discrimination. China stands ready to work together with the EU toward a 5G era for the prosperity of all.

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