Huawei has been Biden its time, but there's no sign new US president will reverse American sanctions

Press secretary won't say nay or yea on Entity List, but prez says 'we need to play a better defense'


It has been six days since Joe Biden became president of the United States. Since then, he has wasted no time in reversing policy decisions made by his predecessor with a series of executive actions on LGBT rights, the environment, and race relations.

One Trump hangover that looks set to remain, however, is an antagonistic approach to China’s tech industry, with no respite likely for tech giant Huawei.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in her first ever Monday briefing of the new administration, dodged a question about whether Huawei would remain on the entity list – American companies must request permission to do business with those on the list – by discussing China's checkered reputation for respecting intellectual property rights.

"Well, technology, as I just noted, is, of course, at the center of the US-China competition. China has been willing to do whatever it takes to gain a technological advantage — stealing intellectual property, engaging in industrial espionage, and forcing technology transfer," Psaki said.

"Our view — the President’s view is we need to play a better defense, which must include holding China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices and making sure that American technologies aren’t facilitating China’s military buildup," she added.

Biden is, according to Psaki, "firmly committed" to ensuring Chinese firms "cannot misappropriate and misuse American data." This issue is reportedly being reviewed, with the aim of creating a "comprehensive strategy."

“So there is, again, an ongoing review of a range of these issues. We want to look at them carefully, and we’ll be committed to approaching them through the lens of ensuring we’re protecting US data and America’s technological edge,” she said.

In its final two years in office, the Trump Administration began a concerted effort to isolate China’s tech and telecommunications giants from the global supply chain, as well as from investors in the US.

The biggest victim was, of course, Huawei. Unable to source new chips, carriers in the UK were banned from acquiring hardware from the company, and were ordered to rip and replace existing kit. The impact on Huawei’s mobile business has proven similarly catastrophic. It has lost market share, particularly outside Mainland China, and was forced to sell its high-volume Honor business unit.

In his last few months, Trump turned up the temperature, cancelling licences for Huawei and imposing restrictions on a wider swath of Chinese companies. Drone maker DJI, for example, was added to the Entity List over allegations it helped support the suppression of China’s Uighur ethno-religious minority.

Around the same time, China’s three main mobile carriers were placed on a financial blacklist over alleged ties to China’s military. This resulted in their de-listing from the New York Stock Exchange. American retail and institutional investors are prohibited from trading in their securities. Mobile maker Xiaomi suffered a similar fate.

It’s not clear whether the Biden Administration will continue ratcheting up the pressure, or merely continue to maintain existing restrictions. It’s highly unlikely we’ll see a major reversal on previous impositions, given the bipartisan nature of the opposition to Huawei in Congress, which saw members of both parties work together in lobbying foreign governments to block the embattled telecommunications firm. ®


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