Empire Unravelling: Will Huawei become Washington’s Suez?



by Selvam Canagaratna

"Do as adversaries do in law - / Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends."
– Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, 1593.

Let's be clear about one thing: Donald J. Trumpʼs ‘worldʼ begins and ends, not unsurprisingly, with Donald J. Trump; just as it always has, and always will until, of course, DJT makes his exit, not just from the White House, but from this world as well (like the rest of us, mortals all).

Writing in CounterPunch magazine, Thomas Hon Wing Polin noted that America’s full-spectrum campaign against Chinese technology leader Huawei is coming spectacularly undone. What Polin said left no reader in any doubt: "Curtains are imminent for Washington’s tawdriest global offensive in recent memory – featuring open extortion, kidnapping, demonization and intimidation of both friends and foes."

The signs were apparent as early as two months ago, wrote Polin, when many governments worldwide lukewarmly greeted US calls for a boycott of Huawei’s products and services. But explicit refusals in the past week by staunch American allies Germany, Britain and New Zealand, as well as NATO member Turkey, have all but sealed the deal. After all, hardly any country outside the US-dominated Empire is signing on.

What’even more difficult to swallow is that, yes, 61% of CNN viewers in America thought the crackdown was motivated by politics, against only 24% who believe Washington’s line on "protecting national security." All that, wrote Polin, had apparently persuaded POTUS Trump to tweet about winning the tech race with China "through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies."

Washington’s stunning defeat, in Polin’s considered view, "stems from US leaders’ hidebound hubris, their utter inability to conceive of a world in which their country was no longer No. 1 in everything significant. Such navel-gazing put them to sleep, oblivious that history has marched past them in the form of China’s Huawei Technologies.

The simple fact is – as Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei has been saying – the Chinese firm is far ahead of everyone else in the development of 5G. Any nation that doesn’t want to be left behind rolling out the game-changing, next-generation communications technology has little choice but to do business with Huawei. Moreover, without fanfare the company has taken a leading role in shaping the very rules of 5G, on a global basis. Like China itself, Huawei simply cannot be contained."

At this point, Polin recalls that there’s a bigger question underlying the Battle over Huawei: Will it turn out to be the Suez Crisis of the American Empire? That 1956 watershed in the Middle East clearly signalled the end of the British Empire’s century-long domination of world affairs. America’s President Eisenhower stopped cold a UK-led invasion of Egypt by threatening to dump Washington’s huge holdings of pound-sterling bonds and cripple the British financial system. China may not have hinted at selling its hoard of US Treasurys, but such a move has long been implicit. After Suez, the world knew for certain there was a new No. 1 power: the United States. The battleground in 1956 was oil; in 2019, it is technology.

On other fronts, the signs are grim for Imperial Washington as well. Besides the revolt of the Europeans over Huawei, the German government is at odds with the Trump regime over a growing number of issues. They include Germany refusing to buy America’s F-35 jetfighter; spearheading the creation of a European Army, together with France; cementing Berlin’s (and the EU’s) ties to Russia through energy pipelines; forging a more independent European foreign policy; and, it’s whispered, eventually getting the US "army of occupation" out of Germany. If she proceeds, Chancellor Angela Merkel will have solid public backing.

A recent poll found that 85% of Germans considered Berlin’s relationship with the US "negative." Some 42% said China made a more reliable partner for Germany than the US, while only 23% said the opposite. Italy has announced its intention to participate officially in the China-led Belt & Road Initiative to develop EurAsia, becoming the first Western nation to do so.

In Asia too, Washington has been losing ground. Behind the scenes, the leaders of North and South Korea – not the grandstanding Trump – are spearheading the accelerating moves towards peace and perhaps eventual reunification. They are being discreetly supported and guided by China, especially President Xi Jinping. Trump took his country further out of the picture last week by blowing a much-anticipated summit with the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un with his hardline obstinacy. Even faithful US ally Japan has been engaging its Chinese archrivals in détente, even as it distances itself from an increasingly erratic Washington.

In the Middle East, America’s headaches are intensifying with a bedrock associate, Saudi Arabia. Last week, Riyadh’s volatile, headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited India and China in a clear bid to diversify his country’s reliance on the US for economic development as well as security.

In the American homeland, meanwhile, bitter political divisions make daily headlines, exacerbated by the pugnacious style of the Trump regime. Nativism and racism have raised their ugly heads to new highs for recent times.

Abroad, allies are talking back and breaking ranks, while rivals gain ground and influence at US expense. At home, the nation chases its own tail incessantly, even as national institutions decay.

Asks Polin, pointedly: "How much longer can the American imperium hold?"

One of the key reasons behind the US’s trade war with China is the desire to get ahead in 5G, and that technology is seen as a backbone from everything from driverless cars to future cities. America and China are in a race to become the leader in 5G and set the standards that will define the next generation of mobile internet.

While products from soybeans to cars will likely get wrapped up in the spat, 5G is the key technology that could actually be one of the main drivers behind why the world’s largest economies have started a trade war.

That technology could allow people to download movies in seconds, And, yes, it could lead to a great mobile internet experience. But, 5G is about much more than high-speed mobile internet. It is being touted as a technology that could support the next generation of infrastructure, from the billions of internet-connected devices expected to come online in the next few years, to smart cities and driverless cars.

Indeed, 5G could be key to President Donald Trump's pledge to "Make America Great Again", as well as China’s ambition to be the world leader in artificial intelligence, AI, by 2030.

The real race is on now as equipment firms like ZTE and Huawei and European companies such as Nokia and Ericsson move to take a lead in 5G. US chipmakers like Qualcomm and Intel are also involved as well as the carriers. And that’s a part of what the trade war is about, according to Declan Ganley, CEO of communications company Rivada Networks.

"It's about who is going to define and control the model, the architecture, and the agenda of 5G, and why that matters is because 5G is the deep blue ocean of the cyber domain," Ganley told CNBC in a phone interview. "So there is a big strategic play here, it's more important than shipping lanes and being able to control your own airspace, it's one of the most important domains that exists and that is ultimately what this is about."



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