This follows from yesterday’s post about Sino-Canadian relations and how to mend them.
China has been lashing out at Canada for the past few weeks, including using what some observers call ‘hostage diplomacy,’ ever since Meng Wanzhou’s detention, in Vancouver, in response to a US extradition warrant. Now, as the deadline for filing the paperwork approaches, (the US government has told Canada it will proceed) the Chinese seem, according to another CTV News report, to be, finally, aiming their anger at Washington, where it belongs.
Perhaps, although I suspect it is unlikely, international reaction, expressed in a letter signed by over 100 scholars and diplomats, is having some effect. I think it is more likely that the Chinese are trying to use every possible tool to counter what I think they perceive to be a very unfair, organized attack on Huawei.
The Chinese have made many, many moves in to the high tech domain … remember Motorola? It was founded in the 1920s, and by the early 2000s was one of the dominant players in the mobile radio market – from taxi and police radios to mobile phones. It was broken up about ten years ago and Motorola Mobile was bought, first by Google and then by Levono, a Chinese firm which also bought IBM‘s personal computer business and now sells the venerable ‘ThinkPad” laptop computers to millions of Americans and to the world. Huawei is just one of the major Chinese players in a market which even the largest American and European firms can no longer dominate. There is, I am fairly certain, a sense, in China, that the Euro-American companies are using their political leverage to try to push Chinese firms out of the market … Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who makes just such a case, is not some wild eyes conspiracy theorist, he is a respected academic and, to be sure, a harsh critic of President Trump. He says that “Quite transparently, the US action against Meng is really part of the Trump administration’s broader attempt to undermine China’s economy by imposing tariffs, closing Western markets to Chinese high-technology exports and blocking Chinese purchases of US and European technology companies. One can say, without exaggeration, that this is part of an economic war on China, and a reckless one at that.” I believe that that is how the Chinese see it, too.
Is Huawei, in some ways, tied to the Chinese government? Of course it is, I think that’s probably a given. Are Apple and Google, in some ways, tied to e.g. the US National Security Agency? There are some who say they are, but, perhaps, it is not voluntary, and, perhaps, Huawei‘s links to its government’s security agencies are similar. I, quite simply, do not know. Are the concerns of intelligence experts based on worries about Chinese spying or are they based on a greater concern about Chinese technological dominance in some fields? I wish I knew.
I do know that, for
years decades Canadian security services have warned government agencies and private sector companies about foreign espionage efforts wrapped in the ‘sheep’s clothing’ of commercial cooperation. Back in my day the bête noire in the radio technology sector a NATO ally. The new 5G service, in which Huawei is a technical leader, is already rolling out in China, especially in Hong Kong, and, also, in some spots, in the USA, too. I suspect that Britain and Canada will, eventually, sign on to the US led ‘five eyes‘ ban of Huawei, but given the size of the Chinese domestic market and the potential size of India’s market, where Huawei is not, yet, excluded, any North America and European ban may have limited impact and may, as these things so often do, backfire and end up hurting the Euro-American companies more than they hurt Huawei. I expect that Euro-American technology firms will find it more and more difficult to sell their products into the huge Chinese market ~ oh, there will still be iPhones and so on, the Chinese consumers want those things, but companies like Qualcom and Nokia may find it harder and harder to sell their products into the Huawei dominated Chinese markets.
All that to say that President Donald Trump has reversed nearly a half century of US strategic policy, which aimed for something between peaceful coexistence and cooption into the US led liberal world order, and wants, instead, to disrupt and delay China’s heretofore steady rise. The Chinese can see this, clearly, I think, but I’m not so sure that they have, yet, decided how they can or should counter it … but I am sure they will try, and that may make things even uglier.