Huawei 5G Security Ban – I mean the US-China Trade War!

Being someone who has a reasonably good grasp of technology, I found it very strange that Huawei is banned from selling 5G networking technology into the US market. The official line from the US government was “China could have back doors into these systems which would create a national security risk” – that’s a great way of scaring people in the general population, but it did not make sense to me from a technical standpoint.

In practice, its quite challenging to sneak stuff like that into a system and hide it away, or to look at it another way, it’s quite easy for the buyers of the equipment to apply more diligence in its inspection and security assessments to avoid such a risk. So I have always had my suspicions about the real reason.

So turning the cynical part of my brain on, I start to think about the world stage for big Chinese tech companies, because they are beginning to gain ground globally, or at least are getting big enough to challenge the USA supremacy in the tech business. The USA is accustomed to being the only home of tech giants. But with the rise of companies like Huawei, Alibaba, and a few other rising stars, it is probably reasonable to think that the US might be getting a bit concerned about their global market stronghold. One aspect of the US economic domination comes from its ability to stay ahead of the game in tech, with the glitz and glamour of the Silicon Valley showboat (the Hollywood of the tech industry) being the shining source of all innovation in tech – at least that is what the marketing suggests.

Anyway, I read today that Donald Trump suggested in recent talks with China that Huawei 5G issues could be part of a deal concerning the escalating US-China trade talks! And this comes after the US declares a severe national security risk if Huawei is allowed to sell their technology for use in 5G networks and strongly encouraged its allies to follow suit and not use their equipment.

So what happened to the security risks then?

If you think about it, had Donald Trump instead said, don’t by Hauwai 5G networking tech because Hauwai are getting too big, and they have essential patents on some 5G technologies which means they will get a bigger slice of the pie from the global 5G roll-out, and we don’t like the fact that Hauwai is not an American company. With that positioning, I don’t think Donald Trump would have gained the support, either domestic or internationally, so it seems the threat of national security is a useful device to gain popular political support for something that would otherwise look somewhat underhanded.

I am generally in agreement with the idea that the US (and other countries) should fight for their rights and position in the global market; there is nothing instinctively wrong with that, and after all, I thought we are all aspiring to be in a free and fair global market. But there seems to be something sinister about misleading the world stage in the pursuit of this agenda and using your power and influence to force other countries to follow suit.

Now in the midst of this, you now have the likes of Google crippling the Android OS capabilities on Hauwai mobile phones. Is this an opportunity for Google to enhance the market opportunity for its range of new Pixel smartphones using the (eh-hem security threat) DT directive! There is that cynicism again! It is a dangerous game to be playing, and I would not under-estimate China’s ability to go-it-alone if they wanted to. There is an unhealthy belief in the US psyche that China needs US tech – I am not sure that’s true, but I am pretty sure that western tech needs China’s manufacturing capabilities and economic labor force.

The quality of tech coming out of China has been steadily getting better, and I am sure China is more than capable of building its own tech, every bit as good as what’s available already if commercial companies are supported/encouraged by a highly motivated government who have a political point to make.

I don’t fully understand the politics or culture in China, but one thing is for sure, over the last 50 or so years, the West has benefitted hugely from the low labor and manufacturing costs in China, huge companies like Apple have flourished because of this very enabling economic model. But as a result of this western consumption, there has been a lot of wealth created that has been flowing towards the far east, because we cannot get enough of the bargain basement stuff that we all love to have.

China is is a closed shop, it seems both complicated and prohibitive for the West to do business in China, easily at least, in the way we are used to at home, so it does feel like very one-way traffic, but you can’t help thinking that we must have anticipated this time would come. I do believe it is a good thing that China is challenged on this point, but I am not sure an outright and aggressively instigated trade war is the best way to go about this, trade should always be mutually beneficial.

Having a challenger to the US dominance in the tech area is a good thing as far as I am concerned, competition is essential, and I expect that the US could quickly lose its stronghold in this area. A country with the size and economic scale that China has, who is willing to make the big bets on rising global tech companies will create competition that to date, the US has thus far enjoyed almost worldwide exclusivity.

It will be interesting to see how the US-China trade war plays out; I expect this will start to dominate the headlines and will have an impactful effect on a lot of people globally. But the new headlines seem a welcome change, giving us in the UK at least, a much-needed distraction from Brexit!

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  1. One thing is for sure, whatever you read concerning what’s in the political arena, it is crafted to suit an agenda. I’m ok with “squaring up” the trade imbalance, if that’s what’s really going on (seems to be).

    Have you seen the “omg, 5G is going to cause brain cancer or is a form a mind control” conspiracies that are out there. Search 5G conspiracy on YT. It would be funny of they weren’t serious.

    I’m more troubled by the space pollution that recently flew on Space X. With all of the starvation and poor medical issues in the world, why are we spending gobs of money for satellite based internet, which historically has been crap, for the masses. Most of the supposed users don’t even own a way to connect to the internet. I generally can’t stand conspiracy theories but something doesn’t ring true about this. I can’t see it being a money maker.

    1. Hi Michael,
      Yeah, to be honest, I really do not pay that much attention to politics normally, but its been forced down our throats here in the UK with Brexit, there seems to be no escaping it. The 5G ban did not sound right from the off, I have never really seen the US administration in such a devicive light before, and much of what I said is really just speculation on my part, but there is definitely more to it than what is being claimed. Of course, DT is getting a good political boost at home from his “firm handling of the Chinese”, I guess that means we probably won’t see any resolution until after the next presidential election in 2020.

  2. Well, if US are afraid of backdoors, then issue can be solved with … Cisco routers behind 5G networs 😉 They just have to put ACLs on them (Access Control Lists) along with WireShark-like sniffing tool, just to be sure (don’t remember actual name of Wireshark). That way, no question.

    Okay, let’s ging back to my E3631A repair. And good luck with the mess of Brexit two weeks ahead – at least, officially.

    1. Yeah exactly, its clearly not the concern, its the more the fact that a Chinese company has the potential to have the lion share of the money to be made IMHO which is not popular for the global US market position it currently enjoys.

      As for Brexit, well you can expect another delay, more pontification, and childish politics. I actually don’t care about Brexit anymore, like a lot of brits we are sick of the politicians, they just need to make a decision and get on with it, deal, no deal, half-arsed deal, or whatever, just get it done and move on.
      Good luck with the repair

  3. I’d love to read a follow up article on your most recent observations. Now that we’ve been dealing with a pandemic, and the economic hardships that will come as a backlash of practicing physical distancing. No new Hollywood blockbuster films. How much of all this could really be blamed on anything to do with China? Intel’s stock fell 15% one day a week ago, and seemingly all because of an extreme interpretation of a comment from an Intel press release? Final realization of Moore’s law, and how we are pretty much unable to go smaller than 7nm? What’s coming? Please! I’d love some more of you’re cynicism now.

    1. Hi James,

      You know its interesting when I wrote this article it seemed like the US was just bullying China for their own means, and politically I do not think that has changed. I would stand by the technology aspect, that’s still an excuse (or extreme laziness/recklessness on the part of the buyers) But, in recent months, seeing what China is doing in that region, and especially with the Hong Kong situation, I have to say, China is bringing it on themselves. I fully appreciate that Hong Kong was part of the so-called British Empir, but the world, and I would hope the brits have moved on, but what I would characterize as basic western civilized morality is still alive and well and we should be protecting this IMHO. The fact is, both in America, Here in the UK and some parts of Europe at least, there is a very angry and in my opinion quite dangerous extreme political factions, both far left and far right, that is getting the airtime, there is definitely a political undercurrent to tear down capitalism (which to me means something supportive of freedom of speech, choice, and individual responsibility) and replace it with a sort of collective culture, and personally, that bothers me because I want the opportunity to be in charge of my own destiny, and I especially want that for my own children.

      Given that China has a state policy of socialism I can understand why those in power are probably not in it “just for the power”, it seems to me there is a genuine concern that when there are culture clashes, one culture infiltration another with the aim to politically or religiously change the other by force, or any means, then that should matter to all of us to some degree. I am speaking about China with very limited understanding of their true political agenda, I can tell you that people I know from HK are deeply concerned about China, and people I know from China are not

      As for the virus, hmm, I think if you are a decent person, in the absence of any evidence you must give anyone the benefit of doubt. Did the virus come from China, it seems that way, was it on purpose, possibly not, was the virus being experimented with, most likely. Can we say the Chinese government had anything to do with its spread, not really! The problem is, if the UK, US and China governments all stood up and give official statements, I think it’s a sad admission that I would simply not believe any of them, they all have the power to deceive, to develop such science and to manipulate the people and the media. I think so many people go with their hearts because the facts are now so uncertain, not because they are unavailable, but because many facts are so purposefully obfuscated by falsehoods, fake news, and dirty politics.

      Should we support our governments while they penalize China with economic sanctions and political weapons, simply for their meteoric economic rise? sadly, I have to default back to my desire to remain in western culture, and so my heart, for me, and for my children’s sake, I would say yes, sadly. And I say that knowing how nice, how respectful, and how kind the vast majority of Chinese people are.

      Not sure thats very cynical…

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