No espionage in Pakistan-based optical fiber project: Chinese experts

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BEIJING: China’s increasing number of cross-border optical fibre cable projects with One Belt and One Road (OBOR) countries, which have improved local communication infrastructure, have earned appreciation from experts who said China’s telecommunication technologies are on par with Western countries.

Experts also dismissed criticism that the Chinese government is using those projects for espionage.

The first land-based China-Pakistan optical fibre cable, constructed by Chinese technology giant Huawei, was inaugurated earlier on Friday, and is expected to be officially put into commercial use this year, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The project’s cable runs 820 kilometres from Rawalpindi near Islamabad in the south to the Hongqi Lahu port on the border between China and Pakistan.

Huawei is also involved in at least 10 submarine cable projects in African countries, according to its website.

China Mobile has been pushing its cross-border fibre cable projects linking China to Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan since 2017, the Beijing Morning Post reported in March.

Eight of China Mobile’s optical fibre projects in Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia were completed by 2017. These include fibre cables between China and Kazakhstan, China and India, China and Vietnam, the news site china.com reported.

Western media have called those projects “intelligence gathering networks,” suggesting that Chinese companies will insert some backdoor mechanism to engage in electronic surveillance or exert some sort of pressure on other countries.

Australia last week signed deals for submarine cable projects with Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, which were aimed at shutting out Huawei, the Australian Tribune reported, suggesting there are concerns on security and on China’s “control” over the South Pacific region.

“China’s cable industry and technology have developed rapidly in recent years with strong competitiveness in the international market, and China is now on a par with western countries in terms of its telecommunication technology,” Zhao Gancheng, Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies Director had said while talking to told the Global Times.

“Cable projects are now among the most popular projects in cooperation with Belt and Road countries, as they actually improve the living standard and spur development of advanced technology,” Zhao said.

Western countries that harbour paranoid ideas about Chinese companies show a pure ideological prejudice toward China, Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Many people in Western countries believe all Chinese companies have political motives, which is part of the so-called “China threat” theory they have been hyping for years, said Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research fellow Liu Weidong.

With China’s growing strength globally, this unwarranted distrust of China may grow even more intense, Liu said.

He also said that OBOR countries will not buy the delusional Western hype, as they realise that pragmatic economic interests outweigh political propaganda, and China has provided local people with job opportunities and convenience.

Countries that attempt to elbow out Chinese companies in international markets and obstruct China’s Belt and Road initiatives may sour relations with China and those countries, and may suffer severe economic losses, experts warned.