Can US lead tech cold war against China?
The US government is trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in allied countries, including Germany, Italy and Japan to avoid telecommunication equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. One of the US’ concerns, according to the report, is that the use of Chinese telecom equipment would pose cybersecurity risks to US military bases in these countries.
If the WSJ report is true, it means Washington is extending the battle lines of its campaign to crack down on China’s high-tech industry to its allies, and the US is attempting to wage a cold war against China in the technology sector.
Although Huawei is a Chinese private enterprise that operates completely independently, the US has long accused the company of being controlled by the Chinese government, claiming it is a security risk. Huawei has almost no sales in the US, but even so, it has gained the largest share of the global telecom equipment market with its advanced technologies, becoming the second-largest smartphone seller worldwide.
Will the US’ suggestion to exclude Huawei equipment be accepted by its allies? Given the political influence the US has on its allies, its demand will put pressure on these countries. But on the other hand, these countries have used Huawei products for many years and widely recognize Huawei’s technological advantages. Huawei equipment has a relatively cheap price and offers cost-effective services. Refusing Huawei tech will mean a more expensive, slower and less reliable 5G network.
Some US elites advocate cutting ties with Chinese technological giants such as Huawei. Elites in European countries are also feeling the pressure of China’s technological progress, influenced by their US counterparts, some of whom believe a technology blockade against China will help protect the technological superiority of the West.
But the situation in Europe is very different from that in the US. European countries have no intention to conduct a comprehensive strategic competition with China, and their concerns are more focused on commercial interests. Following the US to engage in a “technological cold war” with China means huge commercial losses.
Whatever the results of the upcoming meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Argentina, China must be prepared for and take the US technology blockade against China more seriously. No matter how aggressive the US is, China should insist on reform and opening-up, optimizing the institutional environment to expand overall cooperation with Europe and Japan, making the Chinese market more attractive to European and Japanese firms.