The US waited too long to pre-empt China, and slow them down before they hit top speed. Obama’s global niceties and Bush’s pre-occupation with wars and anti-terrorism, may have stopped them from taking strategic actions to slow them down in good time. President Trump has a tough job stopping a moving train that is on full throttle.
The US-China stand-off on Huawei is a ruthless reminder of how leaders exist to protect the national interest of their nation, corporate enterprise, and technological capabilities. This is even more interesting, when juxtaposed with the kind of leadership we have in Nigeria and Africa, where Heads of States open their gates to anything, and listen up the phone for any instructions either from the East, or from across the Atlantic, so they can run and execute them.
I could write a thesis on this stand-off, but let me attempt to summarize. This trade imbroglio will last a while, and will potentially record a high on the trade and technological “richter’s scale”. The resultant shift will be of seismic proportion. Truth is, the US have every reason to be worried, given their obsession with national interest. They will tweak their trade and industrial policies at every time, to suit their strategic national interest.
Cybersecurity is a top priority in the US, and they will not sit and watch an ‘unfriendly’ nation take over a market they consider critical to their national interest. Almost all critical national assets have a thing to do with the internet, control systems, etc. The advent of emerging technologies like IoS, Blockchain, etc, all make this emerging risk more critical. Therefore, the US do not joke with Cyber Security. In 2017, President Trump, issued a Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cyber Security of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure. There are several other cyber Security related laws in the US that you can easily lose count.
The Department of of Homeland Security (DHS) is daily working with corporations and educational institutions to ensure there are primed to mitigate this risk, and build resilience for cyberattacks. Over 200 tertiary institutions in the US are designated NSA Centers of Excellence in Cybersecurity, and they are in constant handshake and research collaborations to ensure they stay cutting edge in cybersecurity. In fact, in most of these schools, they have specialist courses on protecting National Infrastructure (Cybersecurity Experts can confirm to you that the approach for this is different at the national scale, from implementations at the level of a corporation).
Most of the case studies in these courses are on previous cyberattacks by Chinese and Russian interests, and simulations of potential cyberattacks from them. The threat is real! The US will not watch them, become a technological leader, without a fight. The US could tolerate Europe, and the Scandanavian countries as telecommunication leaders in the 90’s and 2000’s, because they do not have the geopolitical might of China, and are considered allies. They could tolerate Finland back in the ‘90’s dominate phone Production with Nokia. They could tolerate Sweden with their dominance at the time with Ericsson. They can tolerate the rampaging popularity of Samsung of South Korea, because they are their allies, and do not pose a major geopolitical threat. However, they will not watch China take over the Telecommunication market, and play leading role in the 5G market. Diversity of technology (hardware, software and network) is a security strategy, and they will not want to wake up one day to see all their key national infrastructure running on Chinese devices. This is the knowledge economy, where data is oxygen, and big data is really big; the US will not open themselves up to this technological invasion.
Make no mistake, this is all down to selfish national interest; but that’s the oath they took. The US has been dominating the world, yet, no one complained. As at 2015, Windows had over 90% of the market share. Google had about 81% of the Search Engine market. Intel had 79% of the market share of the microprocessor market. Internet Explorer (and today Chrome) control more than 67% of the market share. These are all US Corporations and the world did not shut down.
However, can you really blame the US? In China Facebook, a US corporation, is blocked. In China, Google, a US Corporation, is blocked. In China, Whatsapp, a US Corporation, is blocked. Gmail, Twitter, Telegram, all US Enterprises, are all blocked in China. Why then is China complaining, when the US can simply claim reciprocity?
I can’t say who will win this fight, but the odds seem to favour China. The US waited too long to pre-empt China, and slow them down before they hit top speed. Obama’s global niceties and Bush’s pre-occupation with wars and anti-terrorism, may have stopped them from taking strategic actions to slow them down in good time. President Trump has a tough job stopping a moving train that is on full throttle. However, the US have a history of stopping many trains, and Trump will fancy his chances; but times have changed. China has penetrated the market so deeply, that it will be difficult to topple them. As I speak to you, Huawei is partnering with Higher Institutions in Africa, to deepen and entrench their spread. In fact, they are in one of the tertiary institutions in Rivers State, partnering to set up a cybersecurity Laboratory. You think they are Father Christmas? They are that strategic and proactive. Like we say in local parlance, this film go tough; if you blink, you’ll miss it.
As Nigerians, this fight is a rude reminder that we are not ready to compete with the world. We have positioned ourselves as perpetual consumers. We have been producing oil for over 60 years, yet all our leading JV partners are same colonial-inspired foreign interests. Our own na to wait for who go win this fight, so we buy their market, while established nations who preach open market, are adopting ruthless protectionism. We are a sidon look nation, and all we can do is analyze; like I have just done. Who are we, to talk about Huawei? 😁
Una Good morning
Robinson Tombari Sibe a Public Policy Analyst wrote from Port Harcourt