In a stunning and an extraordinary move, Huawei has exposed the United States government and industry to the equivalent of an opening of cards, and moving-your-chips-to-back-your-bet move. It offered to share its 5G technology to a US company set-up, which can become an independent competitor to Huawei, with the codes open to scrutiny and recoding without Huawei’s involvement. This shows Huawei’s confidence in how competitive and economic its technology is against other available technologies. It addresses security concerns of a “backdoor channel” that the US government is accusing it of, and is a way to show its openness to globalized systems of manufacturing and trade inter-dependence rather than splitting the tech standards of the world.
Despite the US government’s worldwide campaign against countries using Huawei, estimated to cost the company $20 billion to $30 billion dollars in sales this year, and the US having Ren Zhengfei’s daughter Weng detained in Canada to be extradited to the US, time and again the Huawei chairman has indicated his preference for continuing to source chips and softwares from the US and the world than have to create its own. Many experts said this latest offer is a challenge to the US to prove its confidence in its own innovative abilities, and that the accusations of backdoors for espionage be proven or closed, even if it is through some form of joint development. Others point out that Huawei could benefit if this may make Washington drop restrictions. Different people see Huawei’s offer as a way to prove and expand adoption of its technologies, earn license fees, show that national security is not the heart of the issue and that the technology is not a copy and that tech innovation is being shared.
The offer has not been taken up, and is unlikely to be, but has reduced the allegations of copying or that Huawei is being currently being used to spy. What are other issues that were brought up in this centerpiece of the trade war?
Ownership or control issues
A major accusation is that Ren Zhengfei served as an engineer in the army in the past, and is part of the Communist party. This is akin to not dealing with anyone who has served in a military or reserve service or is part of the Republican or Democratic party, or with those who have extensive government contracts, which in the US and the UK are often major exporters of defense, aircraft and military equipment and missiles and guns to foreign countries. The Huffington Post indicates that 70 percent of retired US generals in 2009 to 2011 took jobs with defense contractors. Major software research firms have significant parts of their contracts with the US government, including Huawei equivalents Cisco, etc. Should countries not buy from the US on that basis?
Cases of spying?
There have been no actual solid cases against Huawei that have shown political or industrial espionage. Some analysts frame that the question may not be whether there has been espionage but whether there may be government pressure to engage in it. If that is the case, none has been shown with Huawei yet, whereas countless cases have been proven regarding the US using the technology and telco, satellite and other accesses to spy. Snowden, Wikileaks and other sources provided through documentation or variously verified sources that the US spied extensively not only on dozens of world leaders, private and government corporations, but also monitored without limits or appropriate legal process its own citizens. The US has had to deal with ruffled feathers in Germany, the UK, Brazil and other countries. It is also public knowledge that the US government pressures private companies including Google, Facebook, Apple to release data, and even in the Philippines it is an open secret that the US government not only monitors but often gives what should be nationally sensitive information, even instructions, to members of the Philippine government, military and the media about matters that are normally the internal workings of a sovereign state.
Perspective and possibilities.
This collection of information is to be expected of governments, although the US is preaching against it while practicing it most extensively. It is true that signals flowing through your wires or wavelengths can be monitored, decoded, influenced, blocked. But as it is, Google knows everyone’s interests, has mapped our country for terrain, roads, general minerial and vegetation patterns, movements, even our homes and cars, in greater detail than our government ever can. Facebook knows our circle of friends and groupings, YouTube knows our interests, and both can predict our preferences to the extent of their algorithms keeping us and our children hooked for hours. They know more about our daily activity than our family members ever can. US and other satellites already watch all our surface ground movements, weather, they can monitor the movement of our vehicles, even those of persons. US submarines have already mapped our seas, trenches and minerals, as have those of other powers like Japan, Russia and China to a lesser extent. What else do they need to know? Just our hearts…
Block or support?
Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam have chosen to follow the US ban. Currently stating their continued use of Huawei are UK, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, South Korea, Thailand, most of Southeast Asia, most of Africa. On the fence are Canada, India. Given the stakes of potential recession or accesses to markets or finance, we can expect possible changes in sides depending on carrots and sticks. But the current configuration should show that there is a high-level confidence on the technology, economics and security levels provided by Huawei.
For us in the Philippines to be newly or unduly alarmed by the expected warnings against using Huawei is to be seen as naive children to the point of comedy, especially even after all the lessons our history has taught us. Neither the US nor China needs to spy on us for our industries, or technology, our entire economy is just half a year’s growth for either of them. Those who had raised the specter of impending invasion were either ignorant of history or running a theater show…
China’s strategic interest in the South China (West Philippine) Sea is important for keeping the trade routes open without encroaching into foreign military launch pads, and in the Philippines is on whether we will be a launching station for either power or for neither…
We need to study which positioning is better for us, study world history and geopolitics, not just worry about local politics, or technologies and accesses that we cannot prevent. We are often enough misled by some liquor, a little affection and humor, tied by the loyalties of our schools, political affiliations or families, and with a little intrigue inserted, eventually to be enraged enough by some insult or recent quarrel to turn loyalties. Instead, we need to develop our own accesses to information, decision frameworks and execution abilities to maximize development and balance for our countrymen. Which tech choices will yield more net benefit at the least cost, to the majority of our people, regardless of if one side or the other is displeased?
New Worlds by IDSI (Integrated Development Studies Institute) aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities and attempt for common good, culture and spirituality. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks (email@example.com).
**Also published in: https://www.manilatimes.net/2019/10/13/opinion/columnists/huawei-offers-5g-technology-to-us-counters-spying-raps/630996/