US ban on Huawei unsustainable, says former Sabah CM

Yong Teck Lee, adviser of the Malaysia Maritime Silk Road Research Society, says US’ willingness to include Huawei in trade talks shows it was not security that the US was worred about.

KOTA KINABALU: The United States’ ban on Huawei is not sustainable because it harms American interests as much as it hurts China.

Yong Teck Lee, adviser of the Malaysia Maritime Silk Road Research Society, said, for instance, the US sells US$11 billion (RM46 billion) worth of semiconductors to Huawei companies each year.

At the same time, software and other products worth billions of dollars are sold by US companies to Huawei, he added.

“One-third of Huawei’s main suppliers are US technology companies.

“The abrupt announcement of the US ban on Huawei has caused the US tech shares to fall by 4% to 5%.

“As a result of the negative impact on the US economy, the US government had to quickly grant a reprieve to US companies to continue to do business with Huawei for another three months as a grace period,” he said in a statement.

Yong said, as a result of being shut out from US technology, China would be forced to step up its innovation process or to access other technologies.

“Without Google, other tech companies will develop their own operating systems,” he said.

Google pulled Huawei’s licence following an executive order by US President Donald Trump which aims to ban the Chinese company’s equipment from US networks.

Yong said looking at the behaviour of the Americans, it was becoming clear that the anti-free trade assault on China and other countries, in contravention of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, was all about money and US domestic politics.

“It is not about national security or spying as claimed.

“Even the UK national security council had given its nod to Huawei to install 5G infrastructure in the UK last month.

“The UK, which prides itself that its oversight regime is the toughest in the world, is one of the Five Eyes’ global alliance which shares intelligence. The other countries in this alliance are the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“The US is almost alone in its total rejection of Huawei on security grounds.”

He said Australia, New Zealand and Japan, which have put restrictions on Huawei, had only done so because of relentless pressure from the US, rather than on security grounds.

Yong, a former Sabah chief minister, said as of today, no other country had completely banned Huawei.

“No Asean country, including Malaysia, has restricted Huawei.

“In fact, the prime minister of Malaysia had paid a working visit to Huawei last month in conjunction with the Second Belt Road Summit in China.”

He said, as revealed by the US president today, Huawei could be included in a deal to end the trade war between US and China.

“This revelation by the US president shows that the actions against Huawei are not because of security concerns as alleged by the US,” he said.

Yong contended that if Huawei were a security risk, then the US would not want to compromise its own security by accommodating Huawei in any trade deal.

“Security safeguards always take precedence over trade matters.

“Therefore, it has become apparent that the US action against Huawei is to use Huawei as a bargaining chip in the wider trade war.”

‘Digital Silk Road will overcome the storm’

Yong believed that regardless of what happened to Google and Huawei, the Digital Silk Road will overcome the current trade war between the US and China, adding therefore that “it is best to hold on to your Huawei phone”.

He said any visitor to China can see that the country is about its big size, high speed and low costs, adding China’s investments overseas are marked by similar comparative advantages.

“For instance, according to a British report, if the British Telecom (BT) were not to use Huawei for its upgrading networks a decade ago, BT would have had to fork out an extra few hundred million pounds (more than a billion ringgit).

“Unlike Western tech giants, Huawei invests in small markets with little returns.

“Western companies shun these small markets, like tiny Brunei, because these are small markets that do not generate huge profits.”

Yong said, according to a Brunei media report, Huawei is, on the other hand, expanding its footprint in Brunei to include the 5G infrastructure.

“Western tech companies have no reason to complain because a European tech company had earlier brushed aside Brunei by saying that Brunei will have to wait until 2022 before the 5G technology can reach the sultanate.

“Brunei, which is keen to diversify its economy, away from its reliance on oil and gas, is eager to receive 5G, which will be 20 times faster than its current 4G.

“Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries will soon follow Brunei or else fall behind in the technology race,” he said.

As such, Yong said this will fit in comfortably with the Digital Silk Road that was already announced at the first International Belt Road Forum in Beijing in 2017.

This Digital Silk Road is part and parcel of the bigger Belt Road Initiative development of infrastructure in countries along the Belt Road, he added.