Lawfare: Is the U.S. Winning Its Campaign Against Huawei?

Fri August, 2020, Age: 2 years

Many countries have expressed concern about the rise of Chinese technology companies, worrying that these firms may be acting at the behest, explicitly or not, of the Chinese government to censor certain content or collect data on users. Sometimes these concerns are voiced explicitly through public statements from elected officials; sometimes they are expressed more subtly through policy and strategy around digital supply chain security or through representatives in closed-door meetings. But either way, Huawei is a persistent subject of this anxiety in many parts of the world. 5G is a critical telecommunications technology, and there is good reason for countries to be concerned about the national security risks posed by Huawei’s entanglement with the Chinese government.

But even if some governments are shifting their stance on allowing—or at least not discouraging—the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks, that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the Trump administration. Domestic political factors play a role: shifting stances in India cannot be separated from heightening India-China political tensions, and the same goes for the link between the U.K. government’s decision and its tensions with the Chinese government. And in light of a largely confused, contradictory and poorly executed U.S. diplomatic effort to convince allies and partners to ban Huawei, it would be a leap—and a big one—to attribute all this to the current White House. The administration’s messaging on the Huawei campaign has long been a mix of economic and security rhetoric infused with clear political motives. In December 2018, for example, President Trump suggested that he might stop efforts to prosecute a Huawei executive if doing so could help secure trade concessions from Chinese officials. Real security risks were used as political props in a trade war.


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