File picture: Mark Schiefelbein/AP
File picture: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Lack of vision revealed in US policy bullying

By Shannon Ebrahim Time of article published Jul 28, 2020

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The US may be forcing countries to give up their co-operation with Huawei in 5G, but the US itself is unable to provide relevant technology and equipment, writes Shannon Ebrahim in the first of three articles unpacking the rising tensions between China and the US.

The US ban on its companies working with or buying telecommunications equipment from Huawei, and the unilateral embargo on the Chinese telecom giant’s suppliers, is driven by a strategy of containment and disengagement from the rising superpower.

Huawei has become a flashpoint in the trade war between the two countries, with far-reaching ramifications as the US has been bullying its allies to ban Huawei technology and equipment.

US tactics may be working with some Western governments, but more broadly 170 countries have accepted using Huawei, and it has a growing market share in emerging economies.

READ MORE: US dangerously throwing its weight about in South China Sea

The spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged that the UK changed its decision on Huawei’s participation in the UK’s 5G network construction due to US sanctions against the company imposed in May.

The UK badly needs a good transAtlantic trade deal with the US given Brexit and the economic fallout after the Covid-19 pandemic, so it easily succumbed to US pressure.

US President Donald Trump admitted two weeks ago that he had talked many countries out of using Huawei, telling them that if they wanted to do business with the US, they could not use Huawei.

The move was clearly not one based on national security concerns, but rather political manipulation. As a result of US pressure, Canada and Singapore have decided in favour of Ericsson and Nokia, and the French have advised operators to steer clear of Huawei.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is sitting on the fence, but German political parties are pushing for a ban.

Telecom Italia announced that it was excluding Huawei from its 5G tenders in Italy and Brazil.

All of this posturing may lead to China banning European competitors Ericsson and Nokia.

The US may be forcing countries to give up their co-operation with Huawei in 5G, but the US itself is unable to provide relevant technology and equipment.

The argument that Huawei is a threat to the national security of other nations is also largely hypocritical on the part of the US, considering that the US has been collecting five billion mobile phone call records around the world daily, and eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations for over a decade.

Wikileaks and Edward Snowden have clearly shown that the US is infringing on the national security of foreign countries. Apple phones and German cars sold in China are packed with software, data and sensors, so should China also ban them in the context of this escalating environment of mistrust?

What Huawei has done in Africa is to assist a number of countries to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution. Huawei serves 80% of South Africa’s population and holds the largest market share of ICT infrastructure.

Confounding the sceptics, Huawei ensures 50% of its employees in South Africa are local, and it has won Best Employer in South Africa for several consecutive years.

Just because the US is getting left behind in terms of the development of 5G networks, it is nonsensical to penalise other countries that want to make use of Chinese technology.

It also goes against the very notion of free trade that the US supposedly advocates worldwide.

* Ebrahim is Independent Media Group Foreign Editor.

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