EU in the Middle of U.S-China Rivalry Over 5G

September 30, 2020

Dueling diplomatic trips in Europe this summer by United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi sought to sway the European Union’s stance on the China-U.S. rivalry. Among other goals, Pompeo would like to convince more countries to pledge not to use parts made by Huawei and ZTE in their 5G infrastructure—allegedly to limit the Chinese government’s ability to spy on communications there—while Wang hopes to keep the EU from shutting itself off from Chinese 5G companies.


Though caught in the middle of this tug of war, Europe emerged from the late summer visits not showing deference to either superpower. Neither diplomatic visit was particularly effective in pulling EU member states to either side of the 5G stand-off. Instead, the EU has set out to develop and implement its own policy: acknowledging potential threats to 5G networks, while avoiding a hard-line ban on certain equipment suppliers.