On Thursday, China’s Huawei Technologies announced that it had received planning permission for a GBP 1 billion research and development facility in England.
Huawei said in a statement that the new center will employ around 400 people and focus on producing optical equipment used in fiber-optic communication systems.
The development is likely to anger officials in the United States and some British lawmakers who say Huawei’s equipment can be used by Beijing for spying and that Britain should reconsider a January decision to allow it a limited role in its 5G networks. The company denies the charges.
British officials are in the process of evaluating how to best mitigate any security risks posed by Huawei in light of new US sanctions announced in May, which aim to cut off the firm’s supply of the advanced microchips needed to make its equipment.
Victor Zhang, Huawei Vice President said that the technology developed at the new center was separate from that targeted by the US restrictions, and it was “simply wrong” to suggest its announcement was timed to influence Britain’s decision.
He said that Huawei began working on the project in 2017, and acquired the 500-acre development site near Cambridge, around 70km (43 miles) north of London, in 2018.
US officials have said the development project is part of an effort by China to expand its influence in the West.
US Under Secretary of State Keith Krach said in a tweet on Tuesday that “They donate money, hire grads, and burnish their PR credentials. Then comes bullying, coercion, and expansion of the surveillance state.”
Zhang said he could not comment on the British government’s 5G review before it was finished, but that the research center represented a significant investment in the country.
He said that “The UK definitely will care about the British interests and to develop, recover and grow the economy here.”