Up up and Huawei in my beautiful buffoon: Trump sparks panic by tying tech kit ban, charges to China trade negotiations

National security, sanctions allegations, pfft, you don't understand the art of the deal


Efforts to pressure the White House into banning Huawei hardware from America's networks may have backfired.

President Trump appears to have jumped the establishment's tracks, and tied the banishment of the Chinese manufacturer's kit to his ongoing trade tiff with China – meaning any deal hammered out with the Middle Kingdom could lift any restrictions or criminal charges against Huawei.

For the past year, Republicans in Congress, and Uncle Sam's spymasters, have been arguing, without publishing any evidence, that Huawei represents a national security threat as the Chinese government may oblige the company to add backdoors to its products, and thus Beijing's spies can remotely control the devices to snoop on Western citizens, corporations, and intelligence.

As part of that effort, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act which instructed all federal agencies to avoid using equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

But in recent months that effort has expanded to trying to pressure European allies to also ban Huawei equipment from critical networks, and there have been efforts to persuade President Trump to sign an executive order that would ban Huawei and ZTE equipment in networks that carry any government data, which could have far-reaching broader consequences in the private sector.

As efforts to prevent a trade war between the US and China have advanced in the past few days, the Huawei ban and even criminal charges against the manufacturer and its chief beancounter have seemingly been put on the table by Trump, alarming officials.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted about 5G and wanting the US "to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies" just prior to entering trade talks China's vice-premier Liu He at the White House.

The next day, Trump appeared to confirm that Huawei had become part of the talks when he told reporters he was going to discuss another possible ban on Chinese equipment with Liu He. "I guess it will be somewhat of a subject… We may or may not include that in this deal,” he said.

In response to subsequent questions about the criminal charges filed against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Trump then notably refused to say whether a possible dropping of those charges was also on the table. Instead he said the White House will "be talking to the US attorneys" and his Attorney General about dropping the charges.

One big blur

That blurring of boundaries: connecting national security and criminal charges to a trade deal has caused concerns.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill this week, one of the politicians that has pushed most heavily on the issue, former Republican representative for Michigan, Mike Rogers warned against "any linkage" between the issue, and urged the White House to drop the idea of tying national security and criminal charges to trade "like a hot potato." Others warned that it could send the message that the US justice system is for sale.

Meanwhile, the effort to ban Huawei everywhere has started gaining critics. A former FCC official has criticized the executive order idea banning Chinese equipment on networks that "carry government data" as "too blunt an instrument" which is diplomatic code for "stupid."

Previously the FCC, under political pressure, has said it will look into whether to ban companies that pose national security threats from receiving funds from the multi-billion dollar fund it is using to subsidize the rollout of 5G networks, effectively forcing companies not to use Huawei equipment.

Switch

Jeez, what a Huawei to go

READ MORE

European allies have also made it increasingly plain that they don't buy the American national security argument, with both the UK and Germany noting that they cannot find any evidence of a spying program.

Both are being careful not to upset an increasingly irrational US establishment, with the UK saying that China does represent a threat but it will work with Huawei to fix potential issues that its review of the company's source code uncovered. Germany is also avoiding a direct conflict while making it clear that it is not just going to take the US' word for it.

But despite the growing pushback and signs that anti-Chinese rhetoric may have gone too far, some are still aggressively pushing the issue.

This week, senators from both parties wrote a letter to the White House asking it to extend a Huawei ban from 5G network to solar power systems, again claiming that the company's electrical converters pose a national security threat.

The logic is that such converters could be subverted and used in a cyberattack, cutting off power to parts of the US, although you can't help but feel that at this point politicians are flipping through the Huawei product catalogue and wondering what else could theoretically pose a threat. ®

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • 5G C-band rollout at US airports slowed over radio altimeter safety fears
    Well, they did say from July, now they really mean from July 2023

    America's aviation watchdog has said the rollout of 5G C-band coverage near US airports won't fully start until next year, delaying some travelers' access to better cellular broadband at crowded terminals.

    Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement this month that its discussions with wireless carriers "have identified a path that will continue to enable aviation and 5G C-band wireless to safely co-exist."

    5G C-band operates between 3.7-3.98GHz, near the 4.2-4.4GHz band used by radio altimeters that are jolly useful for landing planes in limited visibility. There is or was a fear that these cellular signals, such as from cell towers close to airports, could bleed into the frequencies used by aircraft and cause radio altimeters to display an incorrect reading. C-band technology, which promises faster mobile broadband, was supposed to roll out nationwide on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US's networks, but some deployments have been paused near airports due to these concerns. 

    Continue reading
  • SpaceX: 5G expansion could kill US Starlink broadband
    It would be easier to take this complaint seriously if Elon wasn't so Elon

    If the proposed addition of the 12GHz spectrum to 5G goes forward, Starlink broadband terminals across America could be crippled, or so SpaceX has complained. 

    The Elon Musk biz made the claim [PDF] this week in a filing to the FCC, which is considering allowing Dish to operate a 5G service in the 12GHz band (12.2-12.7GHz). This frequency range is also used by Starlink and others to provide over-the-air satellite internet connectivity.

    SpaceX said its own in-house study, conducted in Las Vegas, showed "harmful interference from terrestrial mobile service to SpaceX's Starlink terminals … more than 77 percent of the time, resulting in full outages 74 percent of the time." It also claimed the interference will extend to a minimum of 13 miles from base stations. In other words, if Dish gets to use these frequencies in the US, it'll render nearby Starlink terminals useless through wireless interference, it was claimed.

    Continue reading
  • TikTok US traffic defaults to Oracle Cloud, Beijing can (allegedly) still have a look
    Alibaba hinted the gig was worth millions each year

    The US arm of Chinese social video app TikTok has revealed that it has changed the default location used to store users' creations to Oracle Cloud's stateside operations – a day after being accused of allowing its Chinese parent company to access American users' personal data.

    "Today, 100 percent of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure," the company stated in a post dated June 18.

    "For more than a year, we've been working with Oracle on several measures as part of our commercial relationship to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of US user data," the post continues. "We still use our US and Singapore datacenters for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete US users' private data from our own datacenters and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022