actually, you should be very worried about huawei’s 5g ambitions

Resistance to Huawei's technology being implemented across the world for new 5G networks isn't xenophobia or tech feudalism. It's a sober stance based on China's behavior.
chinese dragon
Illustration by Juan Pablo Roldan

Given the fact that China has been a scapegoat for President Trump for the closing of steel mills in the Rust Belt, farmers going bankrupt, and the decline in fossil fuel jobs, it’s hardly surprising that many pundits and politicians just roll their eyes when he’s railing against the Chinese tech giant Huawei. After all, the steel mills shut down in no small part because they refused to catch up with the times, farms are dying thanks to corporate over-consolidation, and no matter how much GOP politicians try to stop them, green energy projects are becoming far more desirable for investors than another coal mine or oil well. So, this crusade against Huawei must be just another spawn of Trump’s ill-informed paranoia, right?

One of the biggest concerns about freezing a powerhouse company backed by a superpower out of a global tech market is that it could lead to the splintering of standards and protocols, that Western tech wouldn’t be able to talk to Eastern tech, making geography matter quite a bit more than it should in the age of globalization. This would be extremely problematic because it would shut off many potentially lucrative markets for Western telecommunication companies and those who offer services that depend on those telecom networks, costing many billions of dollars, if not trillions, in lost opportunities, which is what has experts urging caution before picking a fight with Huawei.

But this completely market-driven view ignores the fact that while Trump is demonstrably incapable of understanding the impact of his trade wars and geopolitical flailing, President Xi is perfectly happy building digital fiefdoms and locking out competition from the West. And given the country’s track record of weaponizing advanced technology against its own citizens, both to keep them in line and to track and oppress ethnic minorities it thinks are troublesome, and its insistence that large companies follow the party line and do what the government says, it’s almost childishly na├»ve not to think that Huawei’s gear wouldn’t feature spyware and multiple backdoors to better enable China to spy on its allies and adversaries.

In other words, this is not an issue of two superpowers trying to jostle for position for their tech emissaries, it’s one superpower trying to keep it communication with its allies secure and gain potential customers in nations that heed its warnings, and another interested in expansion and high tech recon and intelligence gathering under the guise of expanding trade. This would be far from the first time China has offered Trojan horse projects in a similar manner. It’s trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative is leaving a very bad taste among Africans and Asians as they’ve essentially made countries borrow money from China to then pay a workforce made of mostly Chinese workers to build ports and bases solely in China’s strategic interest.

In other words, China presents itself as a polite guest while trying to trick you into signing away your life savings to its shell companies, pitching the idea as a wise investment on your part. And it’s with this track record, on top of its widely publicized abuses of technology that it wants to run 5G across Europe and North America, where its frenemies and biggest customers reside. How does this not raise more red flags than, well, at a Chinese military parade? Yes, The Donald might be a broken clock, but you know the expression about them. Just by virtue of being what they are, it’s inevitable that they sometimes get it right. In this case, Trump’s paranoia about China in general is actually well founded, and nations being courted by Huawei should be wary of becoming pawns in Xi’s grand plans to reshape the world in China’s image.

# tech // china / cybersecurity / espionage / security


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