Will Huawei Become America’s Suez Moment?
In 1956 Britain had to finally admit it was no longer the world hegemon, or anything close to it
America’s full-spectrum campaign against Chinese tech leader Huawei is coming spectacularly undone. Curtains are imminent for Washington’s tawdriest global offensive in recent memory – featuring open extortion, kidnapping, demonization and intimidation of both friends and foes.
The signs were apparent as early as two months ago, when many governments worldwide lukewarmly greeted US calls for a boycott of Huawei’s products and services. But explicit refusals in the past week by staunch American allies Germany, Britain and New Zealand, as well as NATO member Turkey, have all but sealed the deal. After all, hardly any country outside the US-dominated Empire is signing on.
Even 61% of CNN viewers thought the crackdown was motivated by politics, against 24% who believe Washington’s line on “protecting national security.” All that apparently persuaded POTUS Trump to tweet about winning the tech race with China “through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.”
Washington’s stunning defeat stems from US leaders’ hidebound hubris, their utter inability to conceive of a world in which their country was no longer No. 1 in everything significant. Such navel-gazing put them to sleep, oblivious that history has marched past them in the form of China’s Huawei Technologies. The simple fact is – as Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei has been saying – the Chinese firm is far ahead of everyone else in the development of 5G.
Any nation that doesn’t want to be left behind rolling out the game-changing, next-generation communications technology has little choice but to do business with Huawei. Moreover, without fanfare the company has taken a leading role in shaping the very rules of 5G, on a global basis. Like China itself, Huawei simply cannot be contained.
There’s a bigger question underlying the Battle Over Huawei: Will it turn out to be the Suez Crisis of the American Empire? That 1956 watershed in the Middle East clearly signaled the end of the British Empire’s century-long domination of world affairs. America’s President Eisenhower stopped cold a UK-led invasion of Egypt by threatening to dump Washington’s huge holdings of pound-sterling bonds and cripple the British financial system.
China may not have hinted at selling its hoard of US Treasurys, but such a move has long been implicit. After Suez, the world knew for certain there was a new No. 1 power: the United States. The battleground in 1956 was oil; in 2019, it is technology.
On other fronts, the signs are grim for Imperial Washington as well. Besides the revolt of the Europeans over Huawei, the German government is at odds with the Trump regime over a growing number of issues. They include Germany refusing to buy America’s F-35 jetfighter; spearheading the creation of a European Army, together with France; cementing Berlin’s (and the EU’s) ties to Russia through energy pipelines; forging a more independent European foreign policy; and, it’s whispered, eventually getting the US “army of occupation” out of Germany.
If she proceeds, Chancellor Angela Merkel will have solid public backing. A recent poll found that 85% of Germans considered Berlin’s relationship with the US “negative.” Some 42% said China made a more reliable partner for Germany than the US, while only 23% said the opposite. Italy has announced its intention to participate officially in the China-led Belt & Road Initiative to develop EurAsia, becoming the first Western nation to do so.
In Asia too, Washington has been losing ground. Behind the scenes, the leaders of North and South Korea — not the grandstanding Trump — are spearheading the accelerating moves towards peace and perhaps eventual reunification. They are being discreetly supported and guided by China, especially President Xi Jinping. Trump took his country further out of the picture last week by blowing a much-anticipated summit with the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un with his hardline obstinacy. Even faithful US ally Japan has been engaging its Chinese archrivals in détente, even as it distances itself from an increasingly erratic Washington.
In the Middle East, America’s headaches are intensifying with a bedrock associate, Saudi Arabia. Last week, Riyadh’s volatile, headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited India and China in a clear bid to diversify his country’s reliance on the US for economic development as well as security.
In the American homeland, meanwhile, bitter political divisions make daily headlines, exacerbated by the pugnacious style of the Trump regime. Nativism and racism have raised their ugly heads to new highs for recent times.
Abroad, allies are talking back and breaking ranks, while rivals gain ground and influence at US expense. At home, the nation chases its own tail incessantly, even as national institutions decay.
How much longer can the American imperium hold?