Technology

Huawei decision shows the limits of US power — and Britains

For the United States, Boris Johnsons embrace of Huawei is a potential tipping point in Washingtons faltering struggle with Beijing for global technological and economic dominance. For the United Kingdom, Tuesdays decision is a pragmatic choice born of economic necessity.

In the end, the lure of the Chinese companys inexpensive routers and switches proved irresistible to a U.K. government that is banking on a quick and cheap rollout of super-fast 5G networks to build its post-Brexit reputation for digital innovation and openness. And that was enough to outweigh the loud barrage of U.S. warnings that Huaweis gear would open the door to espionage — not to mention a future in which the intrusive, antidemocratic principles of the Chinese Communist Party rule the technologies of the future.

The outcome bodes ill for the Trump administrations attempts to persuade countries like Canada and Germany to spurn Huaweis equipment, further chipping away of the United States future power in the networked world.

Whats more, Washington may have little choice but to accept Johnsons move for the moment — despite the fiery words of Trump allies such as Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who lamented that “our special relationship is less special now.” One U.S. official told POLITICO that some in the administration see at least a partial victory in Londons decision to exclude Huawei from the “sensitive core” of British networks, limit its involvement outside that core and acknowledge that Huawei is a “high-risk vendor.”

“We will bank it and then see what more we can get is what I would imagine would be our posture,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Throughout the United States anti-Huawei crusade, even close U.S. allies complained that Washington was dictating, not making a case.

Not exactly fire and fury.

Why the U.S. pressure campaign fell short

Throughout the United States anti-Huawei crusade, even close U.S. allies complained that Washington was dictating, not making a case. Rather than presenting evidence, they said, it fell back on the sort of argument made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that Huaweis security risks are self-evident: Its a Chinese company, full stop.

In the past, that might have been enough, especially given the special, exceptional role that the United States has always played in the global communications network itself. The country built the internet itself, and many of online realms most defining companies — from Google to Facebook to Apple to Amazon — were born in the U.S. That gave the country a certain moral, and functional, authority when it comes to tech.

But a lot has changed in the past several years. For one thing, residual anger remains outside America over former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdens revelations that the U.S. government was willing to tap those homegrown companies for spying, even on allies such as Germany. Whether that anger is entirely real or a performance, it has still made the rest of the world less inclined to accept Washingtons advice on how the internet should work.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

And even countries that might have given the U.S. the benefit of the doubt have balked in recent months at the Trump administrations often undiplomatic 5G diplomacy. On a July episode of POLITICOs Global Translations podcast, a German diplomat working on Huawei conceded that in the end, his country would likely end up close to the U.S. position — but it wasnt going to be told what to do by the United States. (Chancellor Angela Merkels coalition government is still struggling with a decision.)

Whats more, the Germanys of the world now have options when it comes to tech — cheap, reliable, Chinese options. Both the Chinese people and Chinese government are immensely proud of Huawei because of it, and theyre not going to let countries get away lightly with dismissing the company.

In the U.K., the unspoken issue is Brexit

The U.K. economy is predicted to grow by just 1 percent in 2020. With an uncertain economic future thanks to Brexit, getting rid of Huawei in favor of more expensive Swedish (Ericsson) and Finnish (Nokia) suppliers is an economic headache Britain doesnt need — on top of the fact that such a move would also delay the networks.

Given that the decision is guaranteed to anger Britains closest ally — the United States — the decision demonstrates the wider tensions in the countrys post-Brexit “Global Britain” policy. Expect more of those tensions if Britain pushes ahead with a 2 percent levy on big tech firms, an action that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned British Chancellor Sajid Javid against implementing in a Saturday meeting.

On their own, these two transatlantic fights would be a significant nuisance for Britain, but hardly a crisis. Read More – Source

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