Trump's Huawei concession is 'the rope that could hang America'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE went to the G-20 summit in Japan searching for a way to get China back to the table on trade talks. He found one and now the talks are back on. Trump let China’s Huawei off the hook in exchange for Xi Jinping’s return to the trade talks. While some praised the fact that the U.S. stepped back from the brink of an all-out trade war with China, we think the president gave away exactly what China wanted and left American national security thoroughly exposed.  

The U.S.-China trade negotiations broke down several weeks ago when Xi reneged on the agreed terms, and later the U.S. barred U.S. companies from using Huawei’s telecommunications equipment, and restricted the sale of products to Huawei without government approval. In Japan, Trump decided not to impose additional tariffs, and partially lifted the U.S. ban against Huawei by allowing American companies to sell their software and hardware to the company. The total removal of Huawei from U.S. sanctions will be decided at the conclusion of the trade negotiation. 

National Economic Council Chairman Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE assured us this concession to the Chinese telecoms giant only means that Huawei will be able to buy items they can get elsewhere, and “the national security concerns will remain paramount.” The move looks smart on the surface: Trump has enticed China back to the negotiating table and Americans can sell billions of dollars products to the Chinese companies. 

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But nothing could be further from the truth. We know that Beijing’s dictators are smiling from ear-to-ear, gloating over this moment that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” as Vladimir Lenin once observed. They understand clearly that the White House once again kneeled to business interests and fell into China’s “money trap.” 

So what’s the big fuss about lifting the ban on one Chinese company?  

Huawei is a global technology giant that also happens to be one of the critical pillars that supports the Chinese Communist Party’s techno-repression apparatus and a fierce foot soldier in its pursuit of global high-tech hegemony. Huawei plays an important role in China’s massive surveillance system by which the state monitors citizens’ every behavior and forces them to submit to draconian laws and rules, creating a dystopia that free Americans can hardly imagine — but one they need to fear.

Huawei is one of China’s most strategic telecommunications companies. Its technologies (the core of which include intellectual property stolen from U.S. companies) feed directly into China’s cyber and information warfare capabilities and strategies. The company is perfecting technological espionage systems that can be embedded in the United States and other countries, posing a tremendous threat to U.S. security interests of which the U.S. government is fully aware.  

Allowing Huawei to obtain American software and equipment make no sense (think of the lesson of the Trojan horse of Greek mythology). 

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The immediate effect of Trump’s concession is that it will stop Huawei’s spiral decline, help it back on its feet, and allow it to conduct its business as usual — dump its gear, build its telecoms network, collect vital information in many parts of the world. With its lifeline resumed, Huawei will not only survive, it will win the ultimate war by taking the commanding height of global telecommunication, including dominance of 5G technology

Repression of the kind facilitated by Huawei is not meant to end at China’s borders. History repeatedly has shown that a regime's capacity to repress internally is positively correlated to its ambition and ability to expand externally. This is particularly true of China, and the story of Huawei exemplifies it perfectly. China’s total surveillance not only continues to protect China’s dictatorship, it is also helping to prop up dictators around the world. Over a dozen countries such as Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Ecuador are using the system to conduct mass surveillance and repress dissidents. These are systems which Huawei helped to build.

So maybe the risk of China’s technological advances was worth it to avoid an all-out trade war. Not by a long shot. China has every reason to negotiate a trade deal because it is suffering from an economic slowdown and will suffer much more if the trade war stretches on. 

In addition, we believe the reversal of the Huawei ban has made the U.S. government lose credibility with its allies and friends that have stood firm with the U.S. to push back Huawei’s aggression, and wasted Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Pompeo: 'No mistake' Trump warned Russian diplomat about election tampering MORE’s effort to build a coalition to stop Huawei’s global expansion.

It seems that Huawei’s American suppliers may have had Trump’s ear. They are the ones that have products worth billions of dollars to sell to Huawei, a company the U.S. government has accused of espionage and stealing of intellectual property. Their threat is so blatant that Congress passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act — which Trump signed into law — to protect America’s telecommunication network from Huawei’s infiltration.

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Contrary to Kudlow’s claim, Huawei buys many key products from American suppliers that it is unable to get elsewhere. That’s why Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (R-Fla.) called the decision a “catastrophic mistake.”  

We believe the Trump administration’s China policy worked well previously and created new dynamics that might offer golden opportunities to create positive changes in China and protect American interests. But this concession will offset most of the gains. President Trump should continue his original policy of containment of Huawei and not let a perceived short-term benefit shift the course.  

Dr. Jianli Yang is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China.

Dr. Lianchao Han is vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China. He worked in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, as legislative counsel and policy director for three senators.