The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or IEEE, which is headquartered in New Jersey, America but considered a global body, has now stripped Huawei of its membership following the Trump administration’s decision to add the Chinese company to its entity list.
The IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional association and with over 423,000 members hailing from around 160 countries, it provides an important entry point for international research collaboration. It also plays a critical role in setting global industry standards for various technologies including artificial intelligence. The organization also contributes around 30 percent of the publications published globally.
Now that Huawei researchers have been banned, they can no longer review or edit the papers on IEEE’s website or digital archive. They may still continue to exercise their voting rights, present at IEEE-funded meetings, submit technical papers for publication, and play a part in standard setting. Basically, Huawei can no longer take part in the activities that are open to the public.
Nonetheless, the exclusion from the peer review process can be detrimental to Huawei’s plan of becoming the leader in providing 5G solutions and smart cities technologies. Huawei researchers hold many important positions within the IEEE and have contributed to many papers.
Following the ban, numerous researchers expressed their outrage. A Chinese nanotechnology researcher, Zhang Haixia, stepped down from the editorial board of IEEE to protest the decision. She says that IEEE is not a U.S. organization, and thus it has failed to perform with professional integrity by bending to the government’s decision. Similarly, Professor Zhihua Zhou of Nanjing University also said that the U.S. government should not dictate the running of IEEE for its political motives. He suggested that IEEE should transfer its registration to Switzerland. Currently, the organization is registered in New York, but it claims to be a non-political and global body that works for the benefit of humanity.
To defend its decision, IEEE says that if it doesn’t comply with the government’s orders, it runs the risk of facing severe legal implications. As a quick primer, Huawei has been added to the entity list by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which means the company cannot buy U.S. origin technology without government approval. It remains unclear why IEEE considers the peer review process an export.
Huawei is in the red right now as several key supply chain partners including Google, ARM, and Qualcomm have cut ties with it to stay in line with the law. Although chances are that the U.S. and China will reach some sort of settlement by June, the company is ramping up its efforts to become self-reliant. For instance, it has confirmed that it is making its own operating system.
However, becoming self-sufficient isn’t as easy as it sounds. While some things, like software, just do not seem to be the company’s cup of tea, others involve patents, which means cutting the chord is kind of impossible. Previously, the SD Association, WiFi Alliance and the Bluetooth SIG had also canceled Huawei’s membership, but now it has been restored.