As Huawei loses Google, the U.S.-China tech cold war gets its iron curtain: NYT
China has spent nearly two decades building a digital wall between itself and the rest of the world, a one-way barrier designed to keep out foreign companies like Facebook and Google while allowing Chinese rivals to leave home and expand across the world.
Now President Trump is sealing up that wall from the other side.
Google said on Monday that it would limit the software services it provides to Huawei, the telecommunications giant, after a White House order last week restricted the Chinese company’s access to American technology. Google’s software powers Huawei’s smartphones, and its apps come preloaded on the devices Huawei sells around the world. Depending on how the White House’s order is carried out, that could come to a stop.
For Huawei, the big impact will be abroad, since Chinese customers already have limited access to Google’s services. Google’s move will have its biggest effect in places like Europe, where it has emerged as a big smartphone seller. Other companies will inevitably follow. In effect, the move puts pressure on Huawei’s international expansion dreams.
If China and the United States have begun a technological Cold War, then the Huawei order can best be seen as the beginnings of a digital Iron Curtain. In this potential vision of the future of technology, China will continue to keep out much of the world. The United States and many other countries, goes this thinking, will in turn block Chinese technology.
The tougher American stance is closing off many of the ways that the United States and China exchanged ideas and did business despite the strict Chinese censorship regime. Those closed doors could have profound effects not only on the business of technology, but also on how the world will use and understand the devices and services of the future.
Already, China’s censorship and tight control of its citizens’ digital lives have effectively isolated one-fifth of the world’s internet-using population, giving rise to a generation that doesn’t know what it means to Google something or to subscribe to a YouTube channel.
The aggressive new stance by the United States will only speed up that process, opening a potential window to a day when Chinese people can use only Chinese phones and gadgets powered by homegrown chips and software. All this is happening with a speed that has shocked many in China.
“The move by the Trump administration is much more comprehensive than many Chinese expected,” said Nicole Peng, an analyst at technology research firm Canalys. “It also came much earlier. Many people only realize now that it’s for real.”
It is far from clear whether the Trump administration’s moves will truly isolate Huawei from the rest of the world. The White House has struggled to persuade other countries to stop buying Huawei’s telecommunications equipment, citing potential espionage concerns. (Huawei denies that it spies for the Chinese government.) Huawei has already developed its own chips and other capabilities, and has said that it has stockpiled equipment for a day when it would lose access to American know-how and equipment.
More in the source.
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