Bad news for Donald Trump as Britain and Germany won’t be joining the United States in its crusade to crush Huawei’s operations, but they do need guarantees from the Chinese firm. It seems both countries are not interested in getting caught in the dispute between the U.S. and China. Washington and Beijing are fighting for something much more than just economic supremacy.
The tensions have boiled over into a trade war that has continued to rage on till this day, with things set to get worse if the March 2 deadline for negotiations elapses and no resolution is reached by the two parties.
Huawei: Caught in the Middle
Huawei is a behemoth. It overtook Apple as the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world in 2018 and dropped Ericsson in its tracks in 2012 as the world’s largest telecommunications-equipment manufacturer.
The China-based company is a major stakeholder in the global telecommunications industry, and axiomatically, is a perceived threat to any technological endeavor embarked on by the United States. So, it could only have been music to Trump’s ears when the company’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou (who, coincidentally, is the daughter of the company’s CEO Ren Zhengfei) was arrested in December 2018, on charges reportedly related to a violation of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Iran.
The Department of Justice is pursuing criminal charges against Huawei. The allegations grew out of a civil suit in 2014 that accused the tech giant of stealing a robotic arm and other pieces of technology from a smartphone testing lab owned by T-Mobile. Huawei is also charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets, obstruction of justice and attempted theft of trade secrets.
Weng was eventually indicted in Canada and has been held under house arrest at her Vancouver-based properties since then, amid efforts made by United States authorities to extradite her. Ms. Weng’s arrest sent the rumor mills churning. The timing of the arrest coincided with the beginning of the 90-day negotiation period over trade issues between the two countries, leading many to believe that President Trump masterminded the CFO’s capture as a form of leverage over President Xi.
National security advisor John Bolton has come out to deny those claims, stating that while he did know about the plan to detain Meng, Trump had no idea of it.
Huawei Restricted in America
Huawei’s planned 5G network rollout is also being restricted by Washington, over the impression that the tech giant’s ties with Beijing, could see them use these networks as tools of state espionage. Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and CEO, has hit back at the indictment, which he says is “politically motivated.”
Speaking with BBC on Monday, Ren said:
Firstly, I object to what the US has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable. The US likes to sanction others; whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods. We object to this. But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.
Even though the U.S. is yet to furnish any proof of its claims, its aggressive criminal charges against the Chinese company is a way of marking its territory that Huawei’s hardware is off limits in the U.S. and its allies.
Other Countries Going Ahead
However, as it would appear, both Britain and Germany won’t be following in the steps of the United States, despite Trump’s best efforts to consolidate these countries against the tech giant. Both countries, due to their positions as economic and technological powerhouses, are crucial to Huawei’s 5G implementation efforts. While Britain is not taking sides with the U.S., some companies are being cautious with the Chinese firm. World’s second-largest mobile operator Vodafone, has put the brakes on the deployment of Huawei’s equipment in core networks until it gets security clearance from the West. Other operators like BT and France’s Orange have put plans in place to limit the Chinese firm’s equipment pending when the U.S clears its name.