We must stop at nothing to thwart Huawei, China in quest for dominance

We must stop at nothing to thwart Huawei, China in quest for dominance
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The U.S. is in a global competition for influence. For the first time since capitalist democracy had to justify its existence against international communism in the 1950s, the American-led liberal order faces an alternative model for how to organize society and the world. The Chinese government is presenting its model of authoritarian government as a real option to the American-led world order.

The Chinese model features a top-down, party-led approach. Businesses are tied to the state by relationships, while dissent is rooted out through comprehensive surveillance. The truth is, this model is attractive to regimes around the world. The so-called Belt and Road Initiative promises vast capital investments while turning a blind eye to corruption. It features a heavy hand of the state, while private businesses leaders are encouraged to make vast fortunes.

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Since the financial crisis a decade ago, this model of “Communism with Chinese Characteristics” has drawn more interest from developing countries around the world.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE came into office with a mandate to fight against Chinese trade distortions. Although some would argue against the tactics of this trade war (it should have been fought alongside allies, instead of alienating them), the Trump administration has persecuted the trade war with vigor.

However, this competition must be understood as far larger than trade deficits and intellectual property.

Instead, it is about China’s efforts to replace the American-led global order with one that returns the “Middle Kingdom” to the center of the world. The U.S. cannot simply accede to this — not out of some misplaced notions of American supremacy, but because the model of a Chinese-led global order is one in which corruption and conflict would reign.

For an example of what the world might look like under Chinese leadership, just look at the actions of one of the nation’s largest, most successful companies: Huawei.

As the largest telecommunications manufacturer in the world, Huawei is one of China’s leading multinational companies. Though privately owned, its ties to the Chinese government and the ruling Communist Party are deep. Its expansion was abetted by preferential government contracts awarded by the party, and it acts as a “national champion.”

Huawei has long track record of illegality around the world, from bribery and corruption to sanctions evasion and espionage.

Suspicions about how involved Huawei is in high-level espionage continue to grow louder, even as the details remain classified. Under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, Chinese “organizations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work.” Indeed, Huawei and other Chinese companies have been implicated in planting clandestine chips inside computer hardware.

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Finally, Huawei’s telecommunications products directly aid the Chinese government in exporting its model of authoritarian government. Its hardware and artificial intelligence systems have allowed the Chinese government to create an unmatched surveillance state that gives a “social score” to everyone it sees. Huawei, with encouragement from the Chinese government, is exporting this technology to aspiring autocrats around the world.

For these reasons, the U.S. government has moved to prevent Huawei or other Chinese-linked equipment and services being deployed in the U.S. as 5G technology is deployed.

The Chinese are using all aspects of national power in this competition — even notionally private companies like Huawei. That’s why it is so critical that the U.S. fight this influence campaign with all aspects of our national power: economic, political, communications, and even national security. It is appropriate for American law enforcement officials to bring charges against the company and its executives for wrongdoing.

But we should not stop there.

The U.S. government is considering whether to approve the merger of wireless companies T-Mobile and Sprint. While these companies have pledged not to use Huawei equipment within the United States, that is not enough. Both of their global parent companies, Deutsche Telecom and Softbank, would not be subject to such a condition in their global operations. This merger would indeed save money for these parent corporations — money that could then be spent on more Huawei contracts. Allowing this merger to continue, therefore, would only result in China using the openness of the liberal global order against us.

As a part of the global campaign to stop Huawei’s bad actions, the U.S. should halt the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile and declare that the next generation of technology must be secure.

Andrew Holland is the chief operating officer of the American Security Project, a nonpartisan national security think tank.