We are living in unprecedented times. We have two superpowers playing a d**k measuring game. This game feels like a boxing match between Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua; many talks about deal-making and everything falls flat at the last minute. However, this is a little different, as the USA (which holds all the belts, but one) feels incomplete if they do not have total control. We now have a cold war, but this time, unlike the Russians, the USA has found a match. This cold war will not see any bullets, submarines, or any soldiers. The war is geopolitical and economic in a global arena. The current American president has taken the baton from his predecessor. The war is about protecting America dominance in the world, and this means stopping China by any means. The first major victim would have been ZTE. The US president reversed his stance “as a personal favor to Chinese president Xi Jinping” to show his control.
Is president Trump using Huawei as a bargaining chip in the trade deals under discussion with China? Absolutely. However, there is another perspective to this ongoing war. Chinese domination is unstoppable, and there is a real worry for the US. Take a quick look at Shenzhen and the technology coming out of there. The battle of might is in mobile devices and the internet of things. Apple is the American poster child who is under threat from the likes of Samsung and Huawei. The Shenzhen behemoth was not mentioned 3-4 years ago. According to the latest articles, Huawei is the world second largest smartphone maker, and their sales are growing while the likes of Samsung and Apples are slowing. Huawei is also the world largest manufacturer of telecommunication devices.
So, what is the US doing about this phenomenon? A quick history, the tech world used to be dominated by US and European companies (especially in telecoms) while China was the world’s factory. Did China use any trade secrets that were provided to them to make the equipment/devices? That does not need an answer. We witnessed the collapse of Nokia (actually, Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) the telecom manufacturer). NSN and Siemens are not the dominant players of yesteryear.
So did Huawei hack the west, you may ask? Most of the tech developed in China has the US and European patents. They have learned from all the years of being the world’s factory. Their rise was not sudden but gradual and calculated. As European’s used to say, Chinese products are cheap, maybe not reliable but affordable. Well, something has changed. Not only are they cheap but also reliable. Huawei has been undercutting the market leaders to the point of monopolising the sector. NSN built the old telecom networks in the west. As the world moves to a more connected utopia, there is the need for a new type of medium; 5G. In short, 5G is an upgrade to 4G, which means that devices can always be connected to the internet with a download speed of 3Gbps (according to mobile operator Three). If you are getting this kind of speed, why would you bother with a home fibre broadband connection? Could these Telcos be the first victims of this new revolution? As it stands most government and mobile operators agree that Huawei devices were safe, reliable, and cheap enough to not get a ban.
What’s all this about Google canceling their licenses with Huawei for Android? People must understand that Android, even though Google initiated it, is provided as free open source code (as in free beer). Anybody can use Android as they see fit. Google provides a version of Android bundled with their software such as Gmail and Maps; we don’t include Search as it is mostly used via browsers. Google works with partners and certifies that their devices work with the Google version of Android. In exchange, partners can use the Google logo in their marketing materials. Is Google revoking their licenses the end of the world for Huawei? Well, let’s first look at which other companies do not play nice with Google, shall we? Amazon sells its own Android devices and does not distribute any of the Google-branded software. Apple canceled Google contracts years ago to provide its software. We also have OnePlus and Xiaomi. We do not see Google’s move as damaging to Huawei as they can easily circumvent it. It would be seen as a blip.
We do not want to talk about any of the national security allegations as there is no proof provided. America sold its last major telecom manufacturer to Google (Motorola anyone?). The US has access to all data stored not only by US companies but also on US soil. Backdoors are built into software thought to be free of censorship (we see you Tor browser). We can conclude this chapter as the US implementing some protectionism policies and geopolitics. China has said that they will not give in. Europe cannot afford to ban Huawei due to the economic ripple it would create by affecting thousands of jobs in the region. If Huawei can do without US partners, this would set a precedent for other non-US companies.