The Chinese ambassador in Berlin has caused a new controversy that concerns the tech giant Huawei after he allegedly threatened “consequences” if it was excluded from Germany.
Wu Ken’s comments – in which he indicated the importance of the Chinese market to Germany’s auto industry – came amid an intense debate regarding the company’s role in building 5G networks, which the United States has said poses a security threat.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has been criticized for bowing to Chinese pressure after she refused to ban Huawei from the country’s 5G network.
Lawmakers from her ruling coalition are looking forward to ways in order to override her decision with a bill that would seek a ban on “untrustworthy” 5G vendors without explicitly mentioning Huawei.
On Saturday the ambassador stated: “If Germany were to make a decision that leads to Huawei’s exclusion from the German market, there will be consequences. The Chinese government will not stand idly by.”
Wu informed the event hosted by Handelsblatt newspaper that it was important that Chinese firms were not discriminated against, and insisted that the tech giant was under no obligation to hand over data to the officials in Beijing.
But his comments about the auto industry, a major portion of the German economy, were considered by critics as a threat.
Wu reminded the audience that German producers represented for a quarter of the 28 million cars sold in China last year, according to Bloomberg.
“Can we also state that German cars are not safe because we’re in a position to manufacture our own cars? No, that would be pure protectionism,” he stated.
His remarks prompted a number of German commentators, including Thorsten Benner, director of the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute, to consider his question as an “open threat”.
However, Chen Weihua, a Europe-based correspondent for state-owned newspaper China Daily and ardent defender of Beijing’s policies, responded to the tweet, saying: “Anyone who believes China should remain silent and not respond are living in 1900.”
Huawei has been at the center of an unfolding competition between Beijing and Washington over tech supremacy, and its status was not addressed during the interim trade deal the two sides declared on Friday.
Donald Trump’s administration has singled it out as a significant security threat and sought to convince allies of the US across the world to squeeze it out as a 5G supplier.
Huawei has repeatedly rejected these allegations of spying on behalf of the Chinese government.