Public Supports Decision to Ban Huawei from the UK’s 5G Network

July 20, 2020
Relations with China
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Polling conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ has found that public sentiment in the UK has hardened against China over the course of the past month. Nearly half (49%) of the UK public think the Government should seek more distant relations with China, a 6-point increase from June. Moreover, less than a quarter of Brits (23%) now prefer maintaining the current level of relations with China, a decrease of eleven points since the start of June.

A clear majority (62%) of respondents think China is more of a threat than an ally to the UK and its interests. Despite changes to the wording of the question since our polls in April and June, a growing proportion of the UK public appears to consider China more of a threat. In April 48% of respondents said they considered China a threat, while 57% held this view in June. At this stage, 62% of respondents consider China more of a threat.[1]

British opinion against China has hardened due to the increasing controversy around the involvement of Huawei in the UK’s 5G network. In February, when the Government was still allowing Huawei to take part in building the UK’s 5G infrastructure, a plurality (42%) considered Huawei’s participation to be dangerous to the UK’s national security. At that time, the Government had not yet made a decision to ban Huawei, despite significant American pressure. [2]

By June, when the debate over whether Huawei should be excluded from the UK’s 5G network had reignited, 48% of respondents said they would approve of the Government disallowing Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network. The percentage of respondents who said they would actively disapprove of such a decision stood at just 15%.

In our latest poll, conducted after the Government’s decision to bar telecoms companies from buying new Huawei equipment from January, a clear majority (55%) expressed their approval of this decision. Just 9% of the UK public disapprove of the Government’s action. Taken together with the results of polling around the UK’s general relationship with China, these findings suggest the Government’s decision is in line with the wishes of the public. In particular, their decision receives the support of 70% of 2019 Conservative voters.

The Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming has stated that the Government’s decision to exclude Huawei “undermines trust” and is “disheartening,” comments which indicate that tensions between the two powers may continue to rise. Nevertheless, at this stage, public opinion is firmly behind the Government taking a harder line against a country increasingly seen as a threat, despite the potential for the decision to delay the rollout of a 5G network in the UK.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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[1] Again, please do note that the question and the answer codes in July differ earlier iterations in April and June.

[2] Previously, we used to ask respondents whether they “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed/disagreed. Now, we simply ask respondents if they agree/disagree or “strongly” agree/disagree.

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