The Atlantic

The U.S.-China Tech War Is Being Fought in Central Europe

The Czech Republic’s complicated relationship with the Chinese giant Huawei offers a lesson in the benefits and pitfalls of courting Beijing.
Source: Matthew Lloyd / Reuters

PRAGUE—When Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart, Miloš Zeman, raised a beer from a terrace overlooking the spires of Prague in 2016, they were hailing an era of deepened economic cooperation: Beijing would invest billions of dollars in the Czech Republic, and Zeman, in turn, would tout China as a business partner for Europe.

Zeman has been a staunch supporter of Beijing ever since, and in particular of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, promoting the company’s efforts to roll out across the Czech Republic cutting-edge wireless technology known as 5G.

But Huawei’s role here has come under growing domestic scrutiny in recent months, with the country’s cybersecurity agency labeling it a threat. That has triggered a political dispute that is, in varying forms, playing out across Central Europe and the wider world. It puts the Czech Republic at the center of a geopolitical tug-of-war

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