American and Chinese trade negotiators, meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Shanghai, are cooking up an interim deal that is deeply injurious to U.S. national security.
There is growing pessimism that Washington and Beijing can reach a comprehensive agreement, given the fundamental differences over, among other things, industrial policy, intellectual property protection, and restrictions on foreign investment.
Nonetheless, this would be a fundamentally bad deal for America because it would help Huawei, the world's largest networking-equipment manufacturer and second-largest smartphone maker. The company, an across-the-board bad actor, undermines vital U.S. national security interests.
How so? Think of two words: stealing and spying.
Since just about the moment it was formed in 1987, Huawei has been implicated in stealing technology, from Cisco Systems and others. The theft was so pervasive that Huawei drove out foreign competition, killing off, most notably, Canada's Nortel Networks.
Then there is spying. China's spy agencies have used the company's servers, incorporated in networks around the world, to surreptitiously take data. Beijing, for instance, from 2012 to 2017, nightly downloaded information from the headquarters of the African Union.
Spying will become even more damaging when Beijing powers its artificial intelligence systems with data filched from around the planet through backdoors embedded in Huawei equipment. China's National Intelligence Law, enacted in 2017, actually requires Chinese parties like Huawei to spy if requested by a relevant Chinese authority.
Furthermore, when it comes to harm, we haven't seen anything yet. Beijing will undoubtedly use Huawei to control the networks operating the devices of tomorrow, remotely manipulating everything hooked up to the Internet of Things -- in other words, just about everything.
So far, the U.S. has had little success in persuading other countries not to buy low-cost (subsidized) Huawei equipment for their 5G networks (the fifth generation of wireless communication). The Philippines, a treaty partner of the United States, has decided to buy 5G Huawei gear, and Italy, another ally, is almost certainly going to make the same decision soon.
So, if the Trump administration is going to move against Huawei as a national security threat, it has to do so now. Beijing is now stalling, hoping to buy time for Huawei.
There is also something fundamentally wrong with the interim deal reported by the Wall Street Journal. That arrangement boosts America's sale of primary products, a badge of a basic economy, at the cost of ceding high-tech leadership. As Weichert added, "Beijing wants nothing more than for America's national trade profile to resemble that of a developing Third World economy, like Argentina's or Brazil's."