The Chinese Threat Is Not Going Away

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The Chinese Threat Is Not Going Away

Over the past year, the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, and Justice acknowledged that Huawei Technologies Co. was and is not primarily a business enterprise in the conventional sense.  It is a strategic weapon, subsidized by Beijing with a mission to install 4G and 5G telecommunications systems around the world.  Its platforms deliver dramatically more bandwidth in order to deliver more data, faster.  Very quickly these 5G networks will become the digital spine within a hyper-automated world filled with trillions of devices. In the race to the digital future, Huawei had, until recently, left rivals behind.

As recently as a year ago, an estimated two-thirds of the world’s nations were in the process of adopting some or all of Huawei’s networking technologies.  This, along with China’s $1-trillion Belt and Road Initiative, represents a multi-pronged existential threat to the economies and democracies of the world. 

Importantly Huawei’s rise was not part of a conventional mercantilist strategy.  It was the lynchpin of a clearly “martial strategy.”  Its 5G operating system is closed to competitors (like China’s military dictatorship is closed to political opposition), and its top-down architecture is designed to provide a plug-and-play framework tailor-made for autocrats to surveil, propagandize, and control societies. Huawei coupled with the Belt and Road Initiative is the 21st Century’s version of Homer’s Trojan Horse.

In 2017, the U.S. government finally took action and targeted Huawei, along with China itself, for transgressions including unfair trade practices, data theft, and intellectual property theft. This counterattack has escalated and, more recently, Washington has barred Huawei from its marketplace and pressured others to do the same, while forcing the sell-off of Chinese platforms like TikTok, and blocking Chinese access to U.S. technology. Faced with such onslaughts, Beijing and Huawei argue that these measures are unfair and motivated strictly by economic competition.

Unfortunately, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization have been ineffective in bridging China, due to its heavy influence. And the Chinese have also attempted to politicize the international standards organizations that govern the Internet itself in an effort to award itself advantages; without success, so far.

Up to this point, the tussle between the superpowers themselves is center stage. But the collateral damage continues, involving corporations as well as nation-states. For instance, Huawei was founded by a former military officer, Ren Zhengfei, and one of its first targets was to acquire the advanced technology developed by Nortel, a Canadian company that had 20 years ago become a worldwide pioneer in network design...

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