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The tech war with China is only ramping up in 2022

Huawei logo
Huawei logo (Image credit: Android Central)

The U.S. and China are in a full-on war over the tech that will power what comes next from almost every industry. What started as a trade dispute under the Trump administration has grown under President Joe Biden, and there is no predicting how things will end.

Things haven't worked out as expected so far, either. Three years later, Huawei and ZTE (the original targets of Trump's economic bans) are still alive and kicking, producing new equipment every year. In fact, Huawei is still making smartphones after every pundit was sure the company wouldn't even be around.

The P50 Pro happened anyway

Huawei is back with another P series flagship phone with just one limitation because of the crushing trade bans that prevent the company from accessing components — it's using the 4G-only version of the Snapdragon 888 from Qualcomm.

Like the past few phones from Hauwei, it also has no access to Google's proprietary software but can run Android Harmony OS because all the code that makes Android's base is free and open. But, of course, since Harmony OS is just Android with a China-only Huawei app store, there's no real surprise.

The rest of what you would expect from Huawei, like big expensive cameras featuring the Leica brand name, is there, along with Huawei's own AI and ML platform, to make things just a bit smarter. These are the things that Huawei used to make some of the best Android phones you could buy before "the troubles."

Huawei still being in the smartphone market is surprising because of the limitations placed on the company by the U.S. and its trade partners, but phones weren't the target of the initial ban or the subsequent sanctions. Instead, those were aimed at Huawei's real money-making arm: Its 5G equipment.

5G and other smart tech

Verizon 5G nodes

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Huawei and ZTE, as well as a handful of smaller Chinese companies, produce high-quality and inexpensive 5G equipment. Not the kind of equipment you or I can buy, though, the kind companies like cellular carriers and cable companies buy. Before the original ban, there was enough Huawei and ZTE equipment inside the U.S. to be worrisome, but in other parts of the world, the two companies were the global leaders because of the value.

The ban and current further sanctions are because of two reasons. The first is that the intelligence community fears that the companies making critical equipment could be somehow placing Chinese spy tech or software backdoors into the tech. It's possible, but never really proven and if there is doubt placing a hold is probably the wise decision. You wouldn't want equipment crucial to running your power grid or water utility to be compromised.

The second reason is economics, plain and simple. For decades the U.S. was the global leader in tech R&D and innovation. That has slowly shifted and is being challenged by — you guessed it — China. China has thrown the might of its government, including billions and billions of funding, into efforts to catch up to the U.S. and surpass it through an initiative called MIC (Made In China) 2025. The current global pandemic also contributed to further tensions between the two countries, with President Biden issuing executive orders to address the supply of medical supplies and rare metals in addition to the previous rules regarding chips and batteries.

5G radio tower

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

There's also concern about China using less than scrupulous practices like IP theft, reverse engineering, and even state-sponsored financial terrorism (for lack of a better term) to gain headway against the west. These ideas and economic concerns have been pushed by multiple U.S. lawmakers, causing a government reaction. Was the MIC 2025 initiative an actual move to push the U.S. further into an economic downfall, or is China backing industrial espionage attempts against U.S. companies? There's no solid proof, but many in the U.S. government believe this.

The fallout for consumers isn't as bad as it could be. Yes, it's difficult to buy a new car, and the release of new smartphones was delayed on multiple occasions, but the U.S. economy hasn't collapsed yet. Other less visible disruptions happen every day, too. For example, telecom giant Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) was recently forced to remove all Huawei equipment because it wants to provide services with the USDA. In addition, the FCC seeks to ban Huawei and others from selling surveillance and security cameras currently used in schools and airports in the U.S., a move that will undoubtedly follow an order to remove the equipment. While there are programs that provide taxpayer dollars to companies because of these moves, consumers will still see increased prices.

What's next?

Fallout 76 Nuclear Winter

Source: Bethesda (Image credit: Source: Bethesda)

Based on global sales numbers, the U.S. is about to win this war, but that data may be deceiving. If there are worries that companies like Huawei are nothing more than state-sponsored production facilities, turning a profit doesn't really matter as long as global disruption is the true goal.

China is the largest single market for almost everything in the world. It has the most people, who need (and want) the most things, and its growth is in the same key areas that brought such a boom to the U.S. in the decades after World War II — manufacturing. Not only tech manufacturing, but more mundane yet vitally essential things like lumber and steel.

The current trade war may be able to slowly chip away at those industries by trying to deny the tech needed to grow and modernize, but it won't have much of an impact. The U.S. is focused on another of its strengths, namely tech R&D and innovation. Our government believes that stifling growth in adversarial countries is required to grow at home. It may be correct, and some economists would surely agree. One positive is the bipartisan support for tech grants and actual government investment in core tech companies.

Both countries are playing the long game, so things will worsen before they get better.

China is also playing the long game, and it started earlier. The Chinese government has an investment in every large company within its borders, tech-related or not. Funding and support will increase to bolster growth, especially against an economic adversary that has made it known it no longer wants to be friendly. You really can't blame either the U.S. or China here because both governments are looking out for their own bests interests and the best interests of their citizens.

Right now, the best we can do as consumers is support initiatives that would move us as a nation towards the goals we each believe in and hope that the economic war doesn't evolve into a conventional war.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

9 Comments
  • As usual America is the big bully throwing it's weight around when it doesn't like having competition. Pathetic really and I doubt there was anything sinister about Huawei at all
  • Of course there is. Ppl like you are so blind and delusional thinking Huawei is this innocent company and China is this nice country who is a friend and ally to the world. After yrs of stealing, copying, forced technology transfers, cyber attacks and cyber espionage China has caught up and even surpassed in certain areas. It's easier to improve existing tech you copied and stole than creating from scratch. That's where the true ingenuity and counties like the US still lead. Go watch on YouTube China in Focus, China Uncensored, Zooming in China, Serpentza on the real China that they try so hard to hide from us seeing /knowing and China's real plan to control and dominate the world. Look how they lied and tried to deny the virus. Look how they reacted to Australia when it asked for an open investigation on the virus. Or how it's trying to use it's economic influence on Lithuania for allowing Taiwan to open up an embassy. Or using their belt and road initiative to build these massive infrastructures in developing countries only to trap them into debt which they can't pay back so they get them to lease a part of their land or port. Everything China is doing is to place itself as the global leader so they can start telling countries what they can or especially cant do and promoting their CCP propaganda. I'm glad someone like Trump finally had the balls to call out China and everything they ve been getting away with that other countries /politicians were to afraid to speak up. Now the world has finally woken up to who China really is and how they should deal with them. The CCP is the enemy.
  • So you think sa m is a Saint. He's the biggest b Ully, h ypocrite the world has seen.
  • Now industrial espionage is common practice. In the US this is dealt with in the courts, usually ending in monetary settlements. Between US and China, and since Trump times, this is dealt with by blanket bans and sanctions on suspected Chinese companies, often without a clear finding of guilt in a court of law. China is partially to blame for this as they lack independent courts and their courts have a history of turning a blind eye on illegal practices by Chinese companies against foreigners. "Debt traps" are largely manufactured hysteria, if you consider the aggregate amount of loans China has handed out, and how much (as a %) of those loans ended in foreclosure of land or ports vs the % of loans paid back normally, or renegotiated simply with a longer term to repay, etc. What they did to Australia and Lithuania are indeed troubling. This seems to be a new phenomenon under Xi the egomaniac. Like a mafia boss he has to show you what for, if you "disrespect" him. Of note is such activities really started/picked up pace after initiation of hostilities by the US in 2018 (start of trade war and Huawei sanctions). So cant really say CCP IS (unavoidably) the enemy, but has certainly been made into one. The reasons for that are many folded. CCP faults and wrongdoings aside, certain US industrial interests benefit from a decoupling of the countries and sanctions on the Chinese. Politically, the US needs a return to Cold-War style rivalry to drive patriotism and bridge the bitter political divide, and provide motivation for domestic investments and innovation. Lastly, politicians, newspapers and Youtubers will say what sells, so there is an echo chamber effect. Many of these factors are in play in China as well, driving a desire to antagonize the West particularly US
  • Taiwan and India would like a word with you.
  • India is not in any real danger, being a nuclear power. Taiwan is in a very precarious situation. But if the US wanted to truely help Taiwan, they should give Taiwan nukes. No way else would Taiwan the small island be able to defend against blanket bombardment by Chinese artillery. Instead, twice over in recent history, the US sabotaged Taiwan's nuclear program on the verge of its success. So there's that. Will see what happens. As it is, It almost looks like the US wants to "sacrifice" Taiwan for a reason to sanction and economically isolate China that the rest of the world can get behind
    As for whos a bigger bully, you simply have to count the number of wars of aggression that each country started, lets say in the last 50 or 100 years.
  • What this article fail to explore is China's IP theft and espionage in more details and that is not a hoax.
    China went a step further crafting regulation that foreign companies in partnership with Chinese companies MUST disclose all the details of their technologies (That is a government sponsored IP theft of the highest order).
    For the life of me, I don't see what is stopping Chinese companies from honest IP licensing like everyone else, barring highly sensitive IP that cannot be licensed versus brute force stealing? They have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted security wise as such the fear of using HW from China in our most sensitive devices is a fair one coupled with the fact that China's governmental technological model allows them to force any Chinese company to comply with their request for those implementations that could compromise other countries does not help or lend to a resolve in this tech war. If any U.S administration try that nonsense, the courts will quickly let that administration know it will not fly which is nonexistence in China. Can anyone show or share information on when any Chinese company have ever taken the Chinese government to court on government intrusion or fight for autonomy?
    No court system in any country is perfect, I don't see a court system in China in this regard and that is a huge difference.
  • That's been very true in the past but China is slowly letting in foreign companies to setup shop by themselves that in the past would be required to "partner" with the Chinese and share technology. For the longest time China had no concept nor protection for intellectual property. Them being "Communist" means even as they adopted market economy, they view proprietary technology as just something the evil "Capitalists" use to exploit the poor people. No protection for that. Now since China is getting competitive in some areas of technology, they are changing their thinking and beginning to protect it to a degree.
  • China and Russia have been stealing our innovations for a long long time...think space program and before.