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Digital divide will build cold wall: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-12-17 21:41

The bipartisan "Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019", which passed the United States House of Representatives on Monday, is a fresh attempt by the US to officially, thoroughly elbow Chinese telecommunications leaders Huawei and ZTE out of the US market.

Considering the political atmosphere on Capitol Hill, and Washington's desire for bargaining chips to use in its trade war with China, the probability is high that the act will get Senate approval and presidential endorsement.

Once enacted, the act will mean Huawei and ZTE, as well as their subsidiaries and affiliated entities, will lose their footholds in the US market.

Despite the conspicuous absence of solid evidence supporting the US' insistence on a "security risk" heuristic, and Huawei's steadfast stance of innocence, the act officially defines Chinese 5G telecom leaders as a "national security risk" and outlaws their presence in US networks.

Beijing has vehemently condemned Washington's attempts to suppress Huawei and Chinese 5G leadership.

But the act sends a clear message that Washington is intent on playing whack-a-mole with any Chinese companies that raise their heads as industry leaders. Responding to Beijing's reminder that excluding Huawei would put telecom operators in rural America in dire financial conditions, the act installs a reimbursement program to finance removal and replacement of "suspect equipment".

Besides effectively sweeping Chinese telecom equipment out of the US market, the act will also cause chain reactions whose extent and repercussions remain hard to foretell. While the verbal abuse of Huawei and Chinese 5G technology has brewed conspicuous unease among the US' allies and partners, the impact of the US legislation is aimed at cementing a tech wall.

Most countries may agree with Beijing that all countries are obliged to provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment. But some allies and partners, those depending on Washington for security guarantees in particular, may have to think twice when pressed to exclude Huawei.

The exclusion Washington zealously seeks in pursuit of its own tech preeminence will end up creating a "technological divide", Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi just warned at the 14th Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Madrid.

China's opposition against what Wang called a "technology blockade and digital hegemony" has the moral support of many countries. But at this point moral support will not suffice to prevent the impending closing of a technology iron curtain.

Emerging technologies can give new impetus to common development and provide fresh opportunities for all countries, but only if there are non-discriminatory business environments that foster fair competition and research environments that encourage cooperation.

Allowing a technology cold war to come into being serves the interests of no country.

  
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