U.S. Internet giant Google on May 20 began to restrict Shenzhen-based telecommunications company Huawei’s access to updates of its Android operating system and some other mobile services.
Besides the software challenge brought on by Google, famous U.S. chipmakers Qualcomm Inc. and Intel Corp. are also said to have suspended supplying products or components to Huawei, according to a Bloomberg report. U.S. companies made such a move in compliance with an earlier order issued by the U.S. Commerce Department that added Huawei and its affiliates to the Entity List and banned the Chinese telecom equipment maker from buying any U.S. technologies without special governmental approval.
The U.S. administration claims that Huawei poses a risk to its national security without any evidence. While being interviewed by the Nikkei Asian Review on May 18, Ren Zhengfei, founder and president of Huawei, said the company had done nothing to violate laws and the U.S. ban would only have limited influence on its business. Ren further elaborated that Huawei would never manufacture equipment for a 5G network in the United States even if the company is invited to do so in the future. In a statement, Huawei also said that restricting the company from doing business in the U.S. will not make the country more secure or stronger. “Instead, this will only serve to limit the U.S. to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, making it lag behind in 5G development and finally hurting the interests of U.S. companies and consumers.”
The U.S. Commerce Department later issued a 90-day license on its website to allow Huawei to purchase U.S. technologies in order to maintain existing networks and provide updates for existing handsets. In response to the ban postponement, Ren said May 21 that Huawei has made sound preparations for the worst-case scenario, but he still called for global cooperation to move the telecom industry forward.
Huawei is not the first company that has been unfairly treated. Last year, another Shenzhen-based telecom equipment maker, Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corp. (ZTE), was sanctioned by the U.S. administration. Huawei will surely not be the last Chinese company to get ill treatment, either. According to foreign media reports, Shenzhen-based company DJ-Innovations (DJI), the largest drone maker in the world, and some other Chinese high-tech firms, are also targeted with false accusations by the U.S. Government.
In a highly interconnected world, every company has its unique position in the global supply chain and value chain, thus making labor division and mutual cooperation the most economic and efficient way of mass production. We don’t want to stimulate the patriotic sentiment of the Chinese people. However, the ill treatment suffered by Chinese companies has told us that it is highly risky to do business with the United States now. By accusing and excluding Huawei without any evidence, Washington is showing the world that it has no bottom line in trying to crush Chinese industrial leaders.
To fan the flames, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon even said that driving Huawei out of Western markets is ten times more important than a trade deal with China. By saying so, the purpose of the United States is very clear. As the only superpower in the world, it doesn’t want free trade nor fair market competition and mutual respect, but to maintain its hegemony, arrogance, prejudice and absolute say over everything all over the world.
Cruel facts have also taught us that in spite of the importance of international cooperation, we cannot hinge all our hope on others. The capricious U.S. actions also serve as a serious warning to global manufacturers that they must have alternatives while handling business with the superpower. In this regard, Huawei has set a good example. In order to grasp core technologies, Huawei has been investing heavily in and developing its own chips since the beginning of this century. Even blocked by the U.S. Government now, the Chinese company’s chip-making subsidiary HiSilicon can, to some extent, ensure the sustainability of its business and help it tide over temporary difficulties.
We know that research and development (R&D) requires large sums of money. So developing core technologies is not the sole responsibility of enterprises, but also an important task for Chinese governments at various levels. By employing a more pro-active fiscal policy to catalyze key technologies and innovations in the manufacturing sector, more government spending in China should be urgently channeled to tackle crucial technical problems in producing high-end goods and industrial upgrading.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)