May 23, 2019
THE administration of US President Donald Trump this week launched its boldest attack in its long-running feud with China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., which the US has accused of cooperating with the Chinese military to carry out espionage.
Trump has effectively banned US companies from doing business with the Chinese telecommunications and consumer electronics manufacturer. If the US wants the rest of the world to accept its action without protest, it must make a clear case for its necessity.
While security should be a priority for any country, the latest US action is expected to affect millions of people who own a Huawei device around the world, including here in the Philippines.
Huawei is the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer, (after Samsung), and the acknowledged leader in 5G internet technology. It is likely that most people reading this own a Huawei device, or know someone who does.
Despite reassurances, the effects of the US ban will be serious for most users. The biggest issue is Huawei’s use of Google’s Android operating system. Under the ban, Google has already cut ties with Huawei, which means that it will no longer provide the operating system to the manufacturer, and will end access to several key proprietary applications, such as Gmail and Google Maps.
Although Huawei could use an open-source version of Android, that alternative will not fully replace the integrated system, and will make keeping existing phones’ software secure and up-to-date difficult, and then eventually impossible.
But at this point, most other countries besides the US have no reason to fear Huawei, and therefore, no reason to allow US policy to constrain business activity and consumer choice. So far, Trump has not satisfactorily justified his drastic action, other than to simply reiterate his position that Huawei is a security threat.
This has led many to believe that the US decision is just what it appears to be on the surface, a gambit to put pressure on the Chinese government in the ongoing trade war between the two countries.
If the US wishes for other countries to support its action, or at the very least accept being collateral damage in the US-China dispute, it must provide a clear public explanation of what Huawei has done to carry out or facilitate espionage. The threat to security posed by Huawei has not yet been proven. Yet no one has disproved it either. Not providing the clear evidence that would allow other countries to determine whether or not a threat actually exists is an even bigger disservice on the Trump administration’s part than the effects of its embargo on Huawei.
The global economy is already harmed by the US-China trade war; the Huawei ban, absent an explanation for its imposition, will simply damage it even more. The US should provide that information so that we can make informed decisions about what technology should be welcomed to the Philippines and which should be kept out. If that explanation is not forthcoming, our government has the right and responsibility to safeguard Filipino interest first.
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