U.S. Steps Back from the Huawei Cliff, for Now

Posted on May 21, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Google, Mobile with 151 Comments

The United States government announced Monday that it has temporarily eased its dramatic trade restrictions on Huawei in order to minimize disruptions for its customers in the U.S.

As you may recall, the U.S. issued a startling attack against Huawei last week in blacklisting the firm from doing business with companies in the United States. The fallout was both quick and dramatic, with Google—which supplies Huawei with Android and associated apps and services—and other U.S.-based firms immediately cutting Huawei off. The moves threatened to materially harm Huawei’s mobile devices and networking businesses.

“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world,” a company statement noted, responding to the blacklisting. “As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry. Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those have been sold or still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.”

But after a weekend of introspection, sanity prevailed, if temporarily: The U.S. government gave Huawei and its U.S.-based customers and partners a 90-day reprieve on the blacklisting, essentially allowing business to continue as usual for now.

The U.S. moves against Huawei, which is an independent corporation with no legal ties to the Chinese government, is not completely unprecedented. But it is unusual, and the fall out was immediate. This was by design: The United States is currently involved in a quickly escalating trade war with China, and the presidential administration believes that this kind of threat will get China to bow to its demands.

For its part, Huawei has described the U.S. action against it as “bullying,” plain and simple, which is certainly accurate. Huawei is really just a pawn in a general campaign against China and its rising technological prowess, which the U.S. fears will lead to China surpassing it on the world stage. The resulting wave of fear and xenophobia—Chinese firms have a different relationship with their government than do U.S. and many western firms with theirs—has risen dramatically under the current administration.

“This is not just an attack against Huawei,” a company representative told Reuters. “It is an attack on the liberal, rules-based order.”

Perhaps. But it certainly worked. And now it remains to be seen how the trade war will be resolved, and whether Huawei will be allowed to do business with firms in the U.S. going forward. This isn’t over yet.

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