Huawei says its relationship with the US is basically the same as it was a couple of months ago, despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to ease restrictions that currently bar American companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant.
“So far we haven’t seen any tangible change,” Huawei chairman Liang Hua said at a news conference in Shenzhen, China this week that was supposed to be about environmental sustainability. The Huawei exec said that US treatment of the company was “unfair”.
Huawei was placed on the US Commerce Department’s so-called Entity List back in May. This prohibits American tech suppliers from shipping electronic components to the company. However, President Donald Trump signalled last month that he would relax restrictions on the global tech company that have been put in place over national security concerns.
Today, Donald Trump hosted his big “social media summit” in the US, which coincided almost perfectly with a worldwide Twitter outage. Notably, the White House invited exactly zero social media company representatives to the event, but plenty of online conspiracists and grifters to make up for their absence.
“We’re not saying that just because things have relaxed a little, we’re fine with being on the blacklist,” Liang said, according to an English translation by the Associated Press. “Actually, we believe our listing on the blacklist should be lifted completely.”
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross delivered a speech in Washington DC on earlier this week that sought to clarify the Trump regime’s position: Huawei would remain on the Entity List, and the US would simply streamline efforts to make any exemptions for US companies that apply for one. Ross’s statements didn’t seem to clarify much at all.
“To implement the president’s G20 summit directive two weeks ago, [the Department of] Commerce will issue licenses where there is no threat to US national security,” Ross said. Frustratingly, Ross never defined what constitutes a threat to US national security, leaving many people even more confused.
And as if that wasn’t bewildering enough, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said this week that the removal of some restrictions was only temporary.
“We are opening that up for a limited time period,” Kudlow said at an event hosted by cable news network CNBC, where the White House adviser used to work. “So that’s important and, I guess, does provide some relief to Huawei.”
China has created its own “Unreliable Entity” list of supposedly dangerous foreign companies, but hasn’t released information about what US corporations may be on it just yet.
One of the biggest questions that remains is what happens to Huawei’s use of the Google’s Android operating system in the wake of the US-China trade war.
The initial interpretation by the American tech community was that Google would have to immediately stop providing technical support to Huawei for the official version of its Android operating system, but the US government backpedalled and said Google had 90 days to transition before ties must be severed.
Now no one really knows what’s going to happen but, in the meantime, Huawei is working on its own operating system, which it claims will be 60 per cent faster.
Huawei recently cancelled the launch of its latest MateBook laptop, citing the US trade restrictions. And while laptops are just a small part of Huawei’s revenue stream, there are signs that its business could be harmed substantially in coming years.
Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei recently said that Huawei’s overseas phone sales, for example, could decline 40 per cent in the next two years, costing the company as much as $US30 billion ($43 billion).
Despite President Trump’s claims at the G20 summit in Japan last month, nothing was really going to change too drastically for Huawei. The president often says whatever he’s thinking without consulting experts or his own advisers. Huawei is clearly frustrated with the cloud of inconsistency that’s constantly wafting from the White House.
To that, we say join the club, Huawei. We're all just as confused as you are on any given day. As American academic and tech expert Nicholas Negroponte recently said, “clearly [the Huawei ban is] not about national security. We don’t trade national security.” But maybe we do. The answer to that question seems to change by the hour and the whims of the president.