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January 31, 2023
The US government is moving towards a total embargo of exports to Huawei, according to leaks from the administration.
It looks like the FT was the first to have its ear whispered into by shadowy ‘people familiar with discussions inside the administration’. This nearly always means it’s a controlled leak from the source, allowing them to float a trial balloon and test public sentiment on the matter while retaining full deniability if they change course at any stage. It’s part of the fun game powerful organisations play with the media, with the latter getting a regular supply of scoops in return.
But these controlled leakers presumably have a finite supply of credit and if too many scoops turn out to be groundless, leaks from that source will be treated with suspicion. It’s therefore reasonable to treat stories like this as a fairly accurate representation of the positions and plans attributed to the source.
So the FT reports that the Biden administration has stopped granting licenses to US companies which grant them exemption from the blanket export ban that has been in place against Huawei for the past few years. The original rationale was to give US companies time to adjust their business practices such that they could replace Huawei in their customer lists and supply chains. That time is up, it seems.
Some companies have apparently already been notified and you would hope they were given fair warning of the impending move. While this feels like the inevitable culmination of the ‘entity list’ process, the FT quoted an expert in this sort of thing as opining that Huawei’s attempt to evolve away from the various US actions against it will also have been a factor.
Let’s not forget that the original stated reason for US hostility to Huawei was that its kit may allow the Chinese state to tap into 5G networks, so that kit needed to be banned. Then they went after its phones and its ability to acquire any chips with US IP in them, or even involved in their manufacture. Now, it seems Huawei’s pivot to the cloud is a matter of US national security concern.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that the US has decided to destroy Huawei and will keep finding new reasons to act against it until it succeeds. Since the start of this process it has felt like Huawei was being used as a proxy for the Chinese Communist Party and, as we’re regularly reminded, the US has an apparent fondness for proxy wars.
That’s not to say those national security concerns are groundless, but it would be nice to see a bit of concrete evidence to support them every now and then. It’s also easy to believe that Chinese companies are beholden to the whims of the CCP, but can we say that’s definitely not the case in the US and elsewhere?
Anyway, if we assume the FT’s sources are solid, we seem to be moving towards the end game with respect to Huawei’s ability to do business with the US and, presumably, its allies. The CCP will never allow Huawei to be destroyed and its efforts to support it will accelerate the trend towards a bifurcated global telecoms and tech environment. That, in turn, will have a detrimental effect of innovation, interoperability and business in general.
As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno
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