Trump Takes his Foot off Huawei’s Neck — and Catches Hell for it

Trump Takes his Foot off Huawei’s Neck — and Catches Hell for it

As US-China trade talks sputtered back in May, the Trump administration banned Chinese tech giant Huawei from acquiring US technology. The move, which threatened to cripple the company and crater China's plans to lead the world in next-generation 5G network technology, prompted high-fives from US national security hawks, who view Huawei, and China more broadly, as security threats — "strategic competitors," even.


The question since then has been whether President Donald Trump would stay tough on Huawei or offer a lighter touch as a bargaining chip in broader trade talks with Beijing. Over the weekend, he moved in the latter direction, announcing that US companies would be allowed to resume some limited sales of goods to Huawei as part of a compromise with China's President Xi Jinping to restart negotiations. It was a classic Trump-as-dealmaker move, but it didn't take long for the problems with this strategy to become apparent:

The US is sending mixed messages. For months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other US officials have been pressuring allies not to use Huawei gear in their next-generation mobile networks, because of the national security risk that China could use that technology to snoop. But using the company as a bargaining chip in pursuit of a trade deal undermines the credibility of that argument. Meanwhile, if it's true, as the White House says, that Trump plans to allow sales only of "general merchandise" that Huawei could buy from just about anyone, then that's not a great deal for Xi: Huawei will struggle to compete in the global market without those hard-to-make US parts.

Trump isn't the only one with the power to crush Huawei. If he goes too easy on the company in pursuit of a trade deal, Congress might take the decision about Huawei's future out of his hands. The Huawei tech ban is one of the few things that has strong bipartisan support in Congress. Senator Marco Rubio, a leading Huawei hawk, has already threatened to pass a bill that would make the ban permanent with a "veto-proof majority."

Bottom line: Huawei can be a bargaining chip in the US-China trade war, or it can be a truly existential threat to the national security of the US and its allies. But it can't be both. By trying to have his Huawei and eat it too, Trump risks confusing industry, tanking the credibility of his administration, and alienating US allies and adversaries alike.

As digital technology reshapes the workplace, a move toward skills-based training and employment will unlock opportunities for companies and job seekers alike. While automation and AI are already taking on many routine tasks, demand for people with technology skills is rising fast around the globe. Getting the right people into the right jobs within the right organizations is one of the biggest challenges facing the world of work. So how can it be overcome? To read some recent skills-related stories, visit Microsoft On the Issues.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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