On January 28, viewers around the world realised that a technological war had indeed begun between the United States of America and China.
That day, in Washington, the Ministers of Justice, Home Affairs and
Trade, together with the FBI Director-General, held a spectacular press
conference. The purpose was to announce and explain the indictment of the
Chinese telecommunications giant, charged with theft of technology, industrial
espionage and violation of the US embargo against Iran.
Non-existent 35 years ago, Huawei now has a turnover of 110 billion
dollars, across a range of telecommunications equipment: from data centres to
routers to antennas to terminals (smart phones).
The strength of this private company born in Shenzhen rests on four
pillars: a co-operative owned by its employees, it completely escapes stock
market fluctuations; spending 15 billion per year on research and development,
it has become the world’s leading telecommunications technology company;
relying on the huge Chinese population, it has an almost inexhaustible
reservoir of buyers, but also, and especially, young engineers dreaming of
working at home.
As a growth model, it is the industrial darling of the Chinese
government, who will always do anything to defend it.
Huawei’s high-profile indictment followed a less spectacular and less
damaging Congressional measure: the banning of Huawei equipment in the
construction of future 5-G networks (which multiplies by one hundred the speed
of data transmission). The four major US carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
and T-Mobile) announced that they would forgo using Huawei equipment.
America is now pressuring its allies to follow it in this policy. The US
ambassador to Berlin said his country could no longer continue to share
military secrets with Germany if it did not give up buying Huawei for its 5-G
Americans believe that Huawei equipment exposes Western countries to two
cyber risks – one serious, the other very serious.
The first is that of industrial and political espionage: the architect
who has built a telecommunications network is then the most capable of
The other danger is the blackout: in the event of a political crisis,
China could paralyse communications and vital infrastructure (power plants,
The other four members of the Five Eyes Anglo-Saxon secret information
exchange club seem ready to follow the big American brother: Australia has
banned Huawei equipment, while Canada has arrested the daughter of the founder
of the Chinese firm at the request of the US department of justice.
On March 28, the UK authorities released a report from the Government
Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) stating that it could not give an absolute
guarantee that Huawei would not pose a security risk to Her Majesty’s
Americans will want to use NATO as a political weapon in their
technological war against the Chinese. It will be difficult for the East
European countries of the 16 + 1 group to resist pressure from
A technological partition of the world will be drawn between an American
zone and a Chinese zone. Africa has already plunged into the second. Russia, to
whom America wants to apply new sanctions, will probably join it. In Asia,
China should prevail, except in Japan and India. In Latin America, Brazil will
be the first to join Washington.
And France in this great game? It has its own security risks and should
protect itself regardless of US requirements. France understood the naivety of
having sacrificed her strategic industrial flagship, Alcatel, to the
requirements of the (fake) liberalization of the world. France has already
suffered greatly from US claims to impose its laws. She would be wrong to make
her cyber security depend on Washington.
Expansionism in the South China Sea was a strategic mistake for Beijing.
Because the manufacturer of the world, until then admired by all, started to
cause geopolitical fear. As a result, the technological war will be a lasting
one and it will be a lose-lose game. It’s hard to see who could stop it –
either in the US or in China.
The Europeans, for their part, are unfortunately too divided to be able
to impose on the planet the standards of good conduct which are, however,
needed more than ever.
This article was first published in Le Figaro.
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