It has been two years and 67 days; 50 months; 113 weeks and 797 days since Huawei Chief Financial Officer, Meng WanZhou was detained in Vancouver, Canada and held. The woman has been in custody since December 6, 2018, when she was accused of bank and wire fraud and conspiracy. She is the daughter of Huawei’s CEO and has been fighting extradition to the US. Zhou in many ways was the beginning of China’s battle to exist as a tech giant in a world where tech supremacy has usually meant Silicon Valley.
Sino-US relations declined rapidly after the arrest. Huawei is China’s largest privately held company whose telecommunications devices and phones dominate the international market. Its annual revenue hit nearly 137 billion currently, according to data from the Global Times. Huawei has been able to make affordable high tech telecommunications devices that are within the reach of the world. In many eays, China was connecting the world. To give that some context, Huawei annual revenue doubled in just five years from 2015 to 2020 going from 60 billion to 122 billion, even with significant Western prohibition in place. In May of 2019 Huawei was put on the US Entity list which prohibited the company from doing any business with any companies in the US. The ban came just months after its CFO was detained in Canada.
The company was on course to become the largest telecommunications company in the world by 2020, surpassing Samsung. The US further sought to cripple China’s tech prowess by suggesting the nation was using its devices to listen in on consumers. Even US Tech giant Google/Alphabet joined the fray by rescinding access to its Android operating system for all Huawei mobile devices.
Even in the thick of the pandemic, China’s tech industry also had to face even more prohibitions aimed at stemming its growing tech superiority. What seemed like a US threat now seemed to take a different turn, as the United Kingdom determined it would ban HuaWei from its 5GNetwork and dismantle all of its 5G kit from British Network, according to official releases.
That unusual turn has showed that other Western nations like Australia and New Zealand have followed suit, with the exception of a couple of the West’s long time small East asian allies. If China’s growing tech dominance is a threat to the West, could that mean India or Singapore’s growing tech industries are next? Which begs the question, is tech growth, apart from Western hegemony is a threat? And could other nations be a target? Investors, innovators and businesses will want to keep an eye on how the West seeks to engineer the free market to its advantage through national mechanisms like sanctions and unsubstantiated allegations that hurt business; rather than robust internal efforts to make its industries more competitive.
According to data from Grandview Research, the worldwide telecommunications industry is worth1.7 trillion dollars. Nations hoping to grow their share of this growing industry may have the West hovering over its proverbial shoulder should it begin to make real strides. Would the world be as connected as it is today were it not for the proliferation of affordable mobile phones from China that a farmer in Dehli or Douala could afford?
Truly, tech was the last frontier. The one area where the West could safely carve out a niche in innovation, semiconductors, and software. Perhaps the world is entering an age when the world doesn’t need to depend on the West for anything–anymore. After all, the West’s tech sectors ( with the exception of the C-Suite), looks much like the majority of the world–a world that is now playing a more dominant and consequential role in the tech industry. Tech professionals can now live in their own countries, many bringing their expertise back to Guanzhou, New Dehli, Dakka and Marrekesh and changing the world tech landscape forever.
China’s battle to hold place as an industry leader is a case study for every nation seeking economic autonomy and industry relevance. The implications of what the detention of key executives may mean for corporations and organizations worldwide presents a deeply disturbing future for open and fair competition on the world market.
Not only with the last US administration that ended with a violent coup attempt, that we have seen attempts to block trade and industry growth. Is the West fomenting a strategy to level the playing field or to neutralize competition. It will be vital to keep an insightful eye in the mechanizations of the US Congress and the directives issued in Executive orders to see the true direction of the nation.
With new tech hubs popping up everyday, New fintech innovators and supply chain and agrotech sectors blossoming in places from Singapore to Lagos, the West may be fighting a losing battle in trade and tech. China may simply be the tip of the spear as the market advances. Should the world advance their own tech to include blockchain and other advanced fintech solutions the Western fractal banking model may also become obsolete.
Still, nations seeking to upgrade and innovate must be wary as they grow. It is not certain whether a small nation like Singapore or a less developed one like India could withstand a trade war aimed at hampering their growing dominance in one field or another. Could India, for example withstand a pandemic, a tech crunch and a trade war at the same time? China undoubtedly has lessons for the world as we all marvel at its resilience. However those lessons may be better learned by studying those who levied them.
Should nations have the right to hold other nations hostage to sanctions that hurt their position in the world? How safe is your investment if sweeping bans seek to curb competition in detrimental ways? And finally, what happens when the world no longer needs the West, when it pivots not only from its tech but it’s crumbling world financial system that has kept nations in the red. Will the West remonstrate, or will it accept that the order has changed? What will you do?