Why the US is losing its war against Huawei


People walk past a Huawei logo in Beijing. The Chinese tech giant has been hit with new US criminal charges alleging it engaged in a ‘decades-long’ effort to steal trade secrets from American companies. PHOTO/Fred Dufour / AFP

Humiliated by the United Kingdom’s refusal to exclude Huawei from its 5G broadband network, the Trump Administration has doubled down on its attempts to stop China, with poor prospects for success.

The American response includes prosecution of Huawei under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, drafted to combat organized crime. It also includes proposed regulations that would stop the sale of any US components to Huawei and China’s second-rank telecommunications firm ZTE if 10% of their production comes from American technology.

Also proposed is a ban on sales of jet engines for civilian passenger aircraft that General Electric and France’s Safran have been selling to China since 2014 – an economic warfare measure that has no national security justification.

Never in the course of American events have so many said too much to so little effect.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, meanwhile, told the Wall Street Journal on February 12 that the US had uncovered a secret backdoor in Huawei equipment that enabled the Chinese firm to spy on Western communications. Huawei rejected the charge, demanding that the United States make the data public.

The US charge elicited ridicule overseas. Orange CEO Stephane Richard said on February 14: “I’d be interested to see the evidence. It reminds me of the weapons of mass destruction during the Iraq war.” Germany’s Der Spiegel headlined its report: “A backdoor that only the US can see.”

At the weekend’s annual security conference in Munich, American officials including Defense Secretary Mike Esper and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned European countries to shun Huawei. “Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors, for example, could render our partners’ critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage,” Esper said. “It could also jeopardize our communication and intelligence sharing capabilities, and by extension, our alliances.”

But the US news outlet Politico titled its report, “Europe turns deaf ear to US warnings on Chinese 5G.”

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