What looks to be the new cold war between the United States (US) and China is intensifying with every passing day. And the present cold war, like its predecessor, between two economic giants, is being fought outside the borders. The battle over Huawei is by far the most significant manifestation of this new round of hostilities between the two technological superpowers.
The ongoing battle between Washington and Beijing reminds one of the older rivalry between Washington and Moscow that defined the twentieth century’s second half. But thinking that all patterns will remain the same is perhaps misleading to see the outcomes of this new acrimonious relationship. While the Soviet Union’s economy was not linked with that of the West, China’s is hard-wired into the international economic system.
The US is already using sanctions and coercion as the most reliable tools to fight the cold war against China. The statements of Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, and Robert O’Brien, the US National Security Advisor, confirm the assertion made above. From suggesting visa restrictions for the employees of Huawei to threats to telecommunication companies of not doing business with ‘human rights abusers’, Pompeo’s statement tells us that the tech-war can prove more disruptive than Trump’s trade war with China.
Britain’s announcement on Tuesday to ban equipment from the Chinese technology giant Huawei has made matters worse. The reversal by the Britain Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson—that Trump labels as his win—makes it clear that the US and its allies are engaged in a full-scale technology war against China. The ban on tech companies to gain leverage in resolving the state-to-state disagreements will harm technology development by a great deal. The longer these restrictions remain in place, the harder it will get to go back to designing hardware and software that is both compatible and can be patchworked together for greater innovation and the benefit of humanity.