Huawei and Pacific Reset update

Foreign Affairs

The top three stories today from the U.S.-China trade war, or tech cold war, or what we are calling the Pacific Reset:

  • “The Trump administration is poised to issue an executive order this week to secure American telecommunications networks, a move that’s likely to result in the barring of Chinese tech firms such as Huawei,” the Washington Post reports. We will see if it happens — practically the same thing was reported by Reuters at the end of December, and it has been hinted at for months before that.  
  • U.S. negotiators are aiming to please Trump by setting up a mechanism to contain the bilateral trade deficit with China: Such a measure “would automatically raise tariffs on Chinese goods if its exports to the United States keep rising,” the New York Times reports (porous paywall).
  • The Asia Society is out with a report titled “Course Correction: Toward an Effective and Sustainable China Policy,” the result of a task force led by Orville Schell, a highly respected China scholar, and Susan Shirk, a former high-ranking American diplomat. The report is worth reading in detail for those following U.S.-China relations; the New York Times also has a write-up of the report highlights.

The other notable Pacific Reset stories today all have to do with Huawei, in particular its surprisingly public efforts to counter foreign suspicions of spying:

  • Unusual executive interview with foreign media
    Huawei accuses US of ‘political’ campaign against telecoms group / FT (paywall)
    “Eric Xu, one of Huawei’s three rotating chairmen, said on Wednesday that warnings this week by Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, to eastern European countries against using the group’s equipment were the latest example of how Washington was ‘using the government machine [against] a small, weak sesame-seed company.’”
    Xu added: “Is [the US] truly thinking about cyber security and protecting the privacy of other countries’ citizens, or do they have other motives? Some say that because these countries are using Huawei equipment, it makes it harder for US agencies to obtain these countries’ data.”
    FT reporter Yuan Yang added on Twitter: “He also revealed he’s in charge of refactoring the whole of Huawei’s global ICT code base — including that written ‘30 years’ ago — at the request of the UK cyber security watchdog. They’ve earmarked $2bn but ‘frankly’ don’t know how much it’ll end up costing. Not a small job.”
  • PR push in New Zealand
    Huawei: New Zealand needs us like rugby needs the All Blacks / BBC
    “Huawei is playing on New Zealanders’ love of sport with an advert it hopes will soften the rugby-mad nation’s stance towards using the Chinese giant’s technology. The advertisement has appeared in two major newspapers and on billboards. It read: ‘5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand.’”
  • PR push in Canada
    China’s Huawei soft power push raises hard questions / AP
    “As a nasty diplomatic feud deepens between the two countries over the tech company, involving arrests and execution orders, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Huawei’s bright red fan-shaped logo is plastered prominently on the set of ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’ TV hosts regularly remind the 1.8 million weekly viewers that program segments are ‘presented by Huawei smartphones.’”
  • U.S. government and business pushback
    US Vice-President Mike Pence praises Poland for ‘protecting telecoms sector from China’ by arresting Huawei executive / SCMP
    T-Mobile vows not to use Huawei gear / Bloomberg via Taipei Times