Huawei: Staring into the Abyss

Huawei is putting on a brave face. The Chinese networking equipment giant, banned from acquiring US technology last month over alleged violations of international sanctions against Iran, last week claimed it had assigned 10,000 engineers to work around the clock to find ways to break its reliance on American code and computer chips. Spoiler: It's not going to work. If the US ban stays in place, today's Huawei won't survive.

Technology: To make its phones and networking gear work, Huawei needs semiconductors. To make those semiconductors, Huawei relies on software tools that are built by only a handful of US and European companies, which have suspended doing business with Huawei to comply with the US ban. Without access to these tools, or the software updates needed to keep them running, Huawei can't make viable products, and its business will collapse. It's as simple as that.

Politics: Huawei could try to seek a settlement. If Huawei were to admit guilt over the violation of Iran sanctions, fire some executives, and submit to US inspections to allay espionage fears, as it's already done in the UK, Washington might be willing to deal. But Huawei is China's most important and innovative tech giant. Kowtowing to the US would be humiliating both for company, the country, and in particular Chinese President Xi Jinping. There is no sign yet that Huawei or China are willing to go down that path.

But what about all those other countries that have signed deals with Huawei? Governments from Brasilia to Moscow to Kuala Lumpur have signaled they are sticking by Huawei despite US pressure. Just last week, Huawei signed a 5G deal with a Russian mobile telecom company. But unless the US ban is lifted, Huawei won't be able to deliver much beyond signatures.

What if Trump changes his mind? He's seeking leverage in his broader trade dispute with China, and as we know, he's turned on a dime before. All it would take is a single tweet and presto, Huawei's saved. But even if Trump decided to suspend the technology ban as part of a potential deal, the firm's reputation as a supplier may already be compromised. Telecom companies that are preparing to shell out billions of dollars to build their 5G networks would have to think hard about signing deals with a company that from now on will be squarely in the US crosshairs.

And so Huawei is probably going down. As that fact becomes clearer over the coming days and weeks, it will send shockwaves through both the $1 trillion global telecoms sector and through geopolitics. Don't say we didn't warn you.

The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

More Show less

The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.

For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.

The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.

More Show less

16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.

More Show less