Opinion

China laughs last on Huawei Ban, and Laughs Best! 

As a Kenyan, I am aware of the significant influence that China holds over my country. I can see and feel it every day, from the transportation sector, where most of our roads and new rail systems are constructed by Chinese contractors, to the telecommunications sector, where our largest telcos rely on Chinese companies for networking equipment and platform support. I encounter China’s presence when I use my phone, type on my laptop, make purchases at hypermarkets, turn on my TV, and even when I buy replacement parts for my car. You name it, and I would bet that China has a hand in it, yet they never really make noise about it.

In 2019, when the American government decided to play rough—suddenly noticing just how significant Huawei had become and perceiving a threat to their dominance in communication technology due to factors such as 5G, the number of smartphones sold, affordability and scalability of their technology—they resorted to finding all possible ways to bring Huawei to its knees. The Huawei Ban, as we all called it, led to Huawei going back to the drawing board, reducing sales in countries like my own, building their own operating system, establishing their own app store, all while silently working on what many Western analysts thought would take forever: a breakthrough in chipset technology. That’s how, after just three years, America is currently in shock as Huawei keeps quiet and lets their new Mate 60 Series of phones do the talking, garnering positive comments, stirring up patriotism in China, and having the last, best laugh in a war they never wanted to be a part of in the first place. 

I extensively covered the Huawei Ban, a topic that left me feeling a mix of emotions—anger, frustration, and helplessness. At that time, Huawei stood as the second-largest player in the global smartphone market. They were this close taking over. I cherished the healthy competition they injected into the Kenyan market and had developed a fondness for their devices – they many I got to review. 

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Then, America came along, being an obvious bully, employing various tactics to reinforce their dominance. Unfortunately, there appeared to be little that could be done in response. Many of us could only engage in speculation and debates, hoping for a change in the U.S. stance, but that change never materialised.

Interestingly, amidst the turmoil, there was a conspicuous absence of outright condemnation of the U.S. actions or vocal public support for Huawei from the companies affected by the ban. One might have expected prominent American players like Google, Apple to lobby for an alternative viewpoint vigorously. Similarly, international giants such as Samsung, chip makers, and other technology and network providers could have been anticipated to reach out to the U.S. government, global governing bodies, or economic blocs, seeking a better understanding of the situation and proposing amiable solutions. However, this did not occur with the gravity the situation warranted. Take note that the lobbying here should have come from Western and non-Chinese companies. There was no way Chinese companies would be expected to even talk on the matter, as the U.S. government could wake up and add them to their list of banned companies. I mean, they tried it on Xiaomi too, remember

What’s even more intriguing is that Huawei, throughout this tumultuous period, remained largely silent on the matter. Instead, they focused on strategising ways to circumvent the ban. It became evident that they had stockpiled chips, embarked on developing their own HarmonyOS, and aggressively promoted their AppGallery App Store, securing the participation of numerous developers. In Kenya, they launched several campaigns to sell their existing stock and later introduced new devices running on their proprietary Huawei Mobile Services in place of Google Mobile Services, after Google had unequivocally revoked their license. 

In one of my articles ranting out my frustrations on the ban, I proposed stuff that reading back now sounds crazy even to me. Here were my arguments:

  • Companies with a global reach, should only be controlled globally. Here’s what I meant: if a company’s business isn’t limited by their geographical location, their policies and business partners shouldn’t be limited by the political landscapes of where they originated from. In this case, companies like Google, Apple, Samsung etc. Should never be made to act in certain ways that can affect people in other parts of the world where they operate, just because the government where they reside is having a weird political situation. 
  • Software control ought to be given to World Body so that if a company in future comes up with software that powers devices across the world, the security-related bundles of the software, its access, updates, and licenses can only be revoked upon an agreement between everyone who contributes to, and every country where the software is used. This will be a good way to mitigate against a future where trade wars could jeopardise access to important software like say ones used in saving lives in hospitals. 

But are these arguments that crazy? I mean right now Apple has been forced by the EU to play friendly and adopt USB C as the standard on all phones. This is something Apple would never ever ever accept to do, were it not for a policy from this sort of world body. This one move will greatly reduces e-waste, promote fair play, and further development of the technology, entirely benefiting all companies and nations in the end. 

This, I daresay, is how things should work. The EU is a body of 27 countries. These 27 countries all agree on stuff that’s beneficial to themselves, and their trading partners. Individual countries don’t just decide on a thing themselves, all while hurting other countries in a bid to gain economic mileage. 

Right now reports indicate that Apple has incurred a $200 billion loss following news that China is prohibiting the use of iPhones in government offices and government-backed facilities. So perhaps China is finally having its moment of triumph. Just in time as Huawei showcases its prowess with their new Mate 60 Phones. It is an interesting twist that no one would have imagined when the U.S. government started it all back in 2019. 

Here is the control China has up their sleeves: 

  1. They make Apple devices. Apple only designs them, China builds the actual devices. 
  2. Chinese purchases represent a fifth of Apple’s total revenue in 2022. 
  3. China is pushing for stronger alliances with other strong economies of the world like Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (BRICS).

From the look of it all, China is seemingly having the last laugh! 

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7 Comments

  1. US politicians are too arrogant to expect companies and employees of thousands and increasing Chinese companies sanctioned by their flimsy rules and laws will continue buying iphone.

  2. helo.. that was a good piece of writing. i have also been following these trade wars closely. And its true huawei is a powerful tech company and chinese output in kenya is felt in every sector. Latest thing i learnt is that huaweis mate 60 series have a memory chip from south korean company called Hynix.. this is a strong case within usa trade policies. s korea might be required to explain how their chips got in huawei yet there are sanctions.. if huawei piled the chips in their store before thats another story.

  3. China has 4 times more engineering talents than the US. It is crazy for the US to start a tech war with China as they will lose. The US is only good at linear thinking and living on past glory – in another 20 years it will suffer the same fate as Little England (used to be called Great Britain)

  4. I like this. I’m a big fan of Huawei, and their products are amazing. I’ve been using Huawei phones since my first one, and currently, it’s my fourth, and they never disappoint

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