To say that Huawei has a long history of issues with both the United States government and American companies would be an understatement. And for the most part, you can certainly see where its critics are coming from, even its staunchest proponents have a hard time denying that.
However, the latest ordeal that engulfed the company is hardly its own fault – in spite of its past missteps and hard-to-ignore shadiness.
The Trump Card
Regardless of how you feel about the current administration assembled by President Donald Trump, you really have to give it to the man – he can really rile people up and while the general contents of his policies and public speeches aren't too much more difficult to predict than what's been the case with his predecessors, his day-to-day actions are certainly a wild rollercoaster. That's pretty much what got the U.S. into the largest trade war in modern history and what eventually led to the ban Huawei got hit with ten days ago.
Washington can cite national security issues all its wants and it doesn't even have to make them up; those concerns — stemming partially from Huawei's lack of transparency, partially from its close ties to China's communist government — are neither unfounded nor ridiculous. But they're also not new, yet the polarizing ban is. So, what changed? The answer is rather obvious: the guy occupying the White House did.
Make no mistake, this trade war that's been weighing heavy on both the U.S. and Chinese economy for over a year now isn't just the primary reason for the Huawei ban – it's the only one. Sure, some Democrats might have found it in themselves to publicly approve the move but it's not like Trump cares about what they think, that's a courtesy he doesn't even extend to most members of his own party.
No, the only benefit the 45th U.S. President was going for here was applying extra pressure on China as a continuation of the only negotiation tactic he's experienced in – bullying. I'm even criticizing the move, just observing what the man himself is saying.
And what he's saying is that he has no issues with using Huawei as leverage in order to gain an upper hand in his trade negotiations with China which are unsurprisingly going nowhere after a year; yup, it turns out bullying a nation that's been bullying its own people for quite a while now is no mean feat.
Huawei is all too happy to draw attention to his publicly shared thoughts on the matter, including the fact he previously insinuated he'd be prepared to even attempt influencing the U.S. judicial system and the case against the company's CFO – Meng Wanzhou. That absolutely bizarre case is still ongoing but even as his technological empire is facing an unprecedented crisis while his daughter is trapped in Canada, desperately fighting off a U.S. extradition attempt meant to put her on trial threatening up to 30 years in prison, Huawei founder Ren Zhengferi is… laughing, actually.
Laughing at what he describes as a ridiculous example of overreach and misleading international policy claims. His
The Line Of Relevancy
Is the fifth generation of mobile networks going to lead to unprecedented technologies and, more importantly, reliance on those very same technologies? Undoubtedly. Would it hence be wise for the U.S. to allow Huawei to play a critical role in its domestic 5G rollouts? No way. Is any of that directly relevant to the May 17 blacklisting the federal government led by President Trump resorted to? Nope.
After all, it's not like Huawei has been raking in the cash from its U.S. operations prior to the ban. Sure, many small carriers across rural America depend on its infrastructure in order to keep delivering mobile service to customers no one else deems profitable serving but that's not where the big bucks are. In fact, that's barely where any of them are, seeing how slim profit margins are a large part of the reason why Huawei is so competitive in the wireless space in the first place. Sure, it's a pioneer but it's not like the likes of Ericsson and Nokia are peddling 20th-century tech. However, they simply can't afford to charge as little as Huawei does for obvious reasons.
Now, whether that's right or wrong is an entirely different debate altogether but that's where things currently stand, so the fact that the Trump administration is seemingly willing to bankrupt American carriers just to pressure China is truly amazing.
The bottom line is that as shady as Huawei is and regardless of whether one thinks they deserve to be in their current predicament or not, there's no mistaking how they ended up facing sanctions threatening their very existence. Sure, they're unlikely to go under regardless of what happens next but let's not pretend Android would somehow be better off without the second-largest smartphone manufacturer on the planet contributing to its source code on a regular basis.
There's plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Huawei but being caught in the process of Trump learning that trade isn't a zero-sum game isn't one of them.