For Washington, Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei presents a nearly unsolvable problem. We can draw this conclusion by looking at how the US has chosen to compete, or rather, what it is substituting instead for what should be competition.
CNET in an article titled, “White House reportedly considering federal intervention in 5G,” would explain:
5G networks across the US could get a boost from the federal government, according to a report Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. Trump administration officials are considering the move so they can compete better against Huawei globally, the report says.
The Trump administration has reportedly met with US networking companies including Cisco to discuss the acquisition of Western European networking giants Ericsson and Nokia. It’s also looking into giving tax breaks and financing to Ericsson and Nokia, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.
The article notes that the US government also sought to organize a meeting with other tech giants in addition to Nokia and Ericsson including Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Samsung to discuss “combatting” Huawei.
It is unclear how acquiring foreign networking companies already being outcompeted by Huawei would tip the balance in Washington’s favor or how companies like Ericsson and Nokia with respectable market shares would benefit from being drawn into economic warfare between the US and China, two nations both companies currently enjoy doing business in.
Even in the best-case scenario it is unlikely US efforts would materialize and begin showing results fast enough to significantly or permanently set Huawei back.
A Need for Competition, Not Coercion
The US appears to have done everything in its power to fight Huawei besides actually competing against it.
Competition would involve the creation of technology similar or superior to Huawei’s either in terms of performance or cost, or both.
The US is unable to do this as even its own largest smartphone manufacturer, Apple, has all of its phones made in China. The fact that the US’ most recently announced and perhaps most drastic measures so far against Huawei involve “investments,” “equity firms,” “acquisitions” and “holding companies” rather than improving education in relevant fields, domestic manufacturing and technical expertise, reflects a fundamental inability for the US to compete against China on equal terms.
As long as the US insists on facing its growing problems by moving numbers around on financial ledgers rather than picking and placing components on circuit boards inside the US, it may temporarily delay Huawei’s rise but in no way stop it.
If anything, these roadblocks force Huawei and others to restructure themselves in more resilient ways that will make it even more difficult in the future when and if the US ever decides to take on China through actual competition.
Another note; Huawei’s 5G technology will undoubtedly do more than merely build Huawei up as a telecommunications company. It will give nations deploying Huawei’s 5G infrastructure an edge across a multitude of IT-related economic activities, giving them an advantage over other nations forced to settle on alternatives because of US pressure to do so.
If these alternatives truly suit a nation’s telecommunications infrastructure and serve its economic potential that is one thing, but if these alternatives were picked because of political reasons it will cost these nations not only politically with China, but also economically.
US vs. Huawei: Real Security Concerns or a Smear Campaign?
The CNET article would also repeat the justification for Washington’s growing hostility and aggressive tactics turned toward Huawei, claiming:
Huawei was blacklisted last year by the US when it was added to the United States’ “entity list”. In addition, President Donald Trump at the same time signed an executive order essentially banning the company in light of national security concerns that Huawei had close ties with the Chinese government. Huawei has repeatedly denied that charge.
These “national security concerns” have been expressed now for years by the US yet no evidence has been presented.
It is interesting that even attempts across the US-European and even Australian media to explain Washington’s growing obsession with Huawei generally admit these concerns are just an excuse and that protecting US dominance over global technology and the economic power and influence it provides, is the real goal.
ABC (Australia) in its article, “Huawei and Apple smartphones are both made in China, so what is the difference?,” would note:
Professor Clive Williams from the Australian National University’s Centre for Military and Security Law told the ABC that to his knowledge, no evidence has yet been provided of Huawei conducting espionage.
“Huawei is ahead of the field in 5G research so it could be an uncheckable way of reining it in and limiting its market share.
Uncheckable accusations (or later, proven-to-be-false accusations) have become the bread and butter of US foreign policy helping to grease the wheels of everything from economic warfare to literal wars.
Interestingly enough, there is real evidence that US intelligence agencies have infiltrated and compromised both software and hardware made in the West which could easily justify the same sort of measures the US is currently taking against Huawei to be turned back against US companies by the rest of the world.
MIT’s Technology Review magazine in a 2013 article titled, “NSA’s Own Hardware Backdoors May Still Be a “Problem from Hell”,” would admit (my emphasis):
In 2011, General Michael Hayden, who had earlier been director of both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, described the idea of computer hardware with hidden “backdoors” planted by an enemy as “the problem from hell.” This month, news reports based on leaked documents said that the NSA itself has used that tactic, working with U.S. companies to insert secret backdoors into chips and other hardware to aid its surveillance efforts.
In other words the US is in fact guilty and has been for quite some time of exactly what it is accusing Huawei of allegedly doing. Yet nations around the globe have not attempted to cripple or shutter US tech companies or even ban them from their markets.
Government organizations around the globe may prudently opt for domestically produced telecommunications equipment, but in general, the world has been fairly lenient on the US despite just how compromised its tech industry is by intelligence agencies and the special interests they work for.
Not only does the US fall short in creating viable alternatives to Huawei products, the products it does have and the corporations making them are as tainted in reality by ties to Washington’s intelligence agencies as it claims (without evidence) Huawei is with the Chinese government.
It would appear that, like Washington’s many literal wars around the globe burning US cash and its reputation upon the global stage, Washington’s economic battles are also doomed to failure. Until constructive competition takes precedence over conquest and coercion, the US will continue down this unfortunate path where instead of promoting and showcasing American ingenuity, Washington opts to announcing its latest substitution for it.
Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.