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Can Huawei Go Its Own Way?

Can Huawei Go Its Own Way?

As China's leaders bask in the glow of the massive military parade and other festivities they held in Beijing on Tuesday to mark the People's Republic's 70th birthday, a quieter but potentially more significant test of China's global clout is playing out in the bustling tech hub of Shenzhen nearly 1,400 miles to the south.


Huawei, China's most important global tech company, has announced it is going to produce 5G equipment without any US components at all.

Recall that back in May, the Trump administration kneecapped the Chinese tech giant by restricting US companies from selling it software, microchips, and other vital components, because of concerns that Beijing could use Huawei equipment to spy on the US or its allies. It was part of a broader campaign to push back against China's rise as a technology powerhouse. The US has since added a Chinese supercomputer maker to its blacklist and is currently drawing up even tighter restrictions on US tech exports to China.

China's president, Xi Jinping, has responded to this US pressure by promising to break China's technology dependence on the US, evoking the spirit of the Chinese communists' heroic "Long March" of the 1930s. As part of that Huawei is now basically saying: "no US technology? No problem."

The stakes are huge. Huawei makes more smartphones than Apple, and outside of the US, where it's long been de-facto (and now officially) banned, it is the world's biggest supplier of the networking equipment that lets you scroll through social media, hail a car, and stream cat videos on your phone. The company is also leading the push to build ultra-fast, next-generation 5G networks that will power our sci-fi future: smart cities, remote surgery, driverless cars, and driverless cat videos.

If Huawei can't find a way around the US blockade (and there are good reasons to think it will have a hard time – not least due to the US's massive advantages in critical technologies like semiconductors), its days as a global company are numbered, and Xi's drive for tech independence will suffer a major blow.

If it can, then the competition between the US and China for supremacy in the technologies that will help drive the global economy, shape alliances, and determine the balance of military power in the 21st century will have entered a critical new phase.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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