Android guestsSource: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central

The US and China are in a full-blown war over the technology that will power the future of nearly every industry. What started as a trade dispute under the Trump administration has grown under President Joe Biden, and there’s no telling how things will end.

So far it has not gone as expected. Three years later, Huawei and ZTE (the original targets of Trump’s economic bans) are still alive and kicking, producing new equipment every year. In fact, Huawei is still making smartphones after every expert was sure the company wouldn’t even be there.

The P50 Pro happened after all

Huawei is back with another P-series flagship phone with only one limitation due to crushing trade bans that prevent the company from accessing components – it uses the 4G version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888.

Like Hauwei’s past few phones, it also doesn’t have access to Google’s proprietary software, but can run the Android Harmony OS because all of the code that makes the foundation of Android is free and open. But since Harmony OS is just Android with a China-only Huawei app store, there’s no real surprise.

The rest of what you’d expect from Huawei, like big expensive Leica-branded cameras, along with Huawei’s proprietary AI and ML platform, are there to make things just a little bit smarter. These are the things Huawei used to make some of the best Android phones you could buy before “the trouble.”

The fact that Huawei is still in the smartphone market is surprising given the restrictions imposed on the company by the US and its trading partners, but phones were not the target of the initial ban or subsequent sanctions. Instead, they focused on Huawei’s real money-making arm: its 5G equipment.

5G and other smart technology

Verizon 5G Nodes

Source: Android Central

Huawei and ZTE, as well as a handful of smaller Chinese companies, are producing high-quality and low-cost 5G equipment. Not the kind of equipment that you or I can buy, but the kind that companies like cell carriers and cable companies buy. Before the original ban, there was enough Huawei and ZTE equipment in the US to be a cause for concern, but in other parts of the world, the two companies were the world leaders for value.

The ban and the current further sanctions are for two reasons. The first is that the intelligence community fears that the companies that make critical equipment could somehow put Chinese spy technology or software backdoors in the technology. It’s possible, but never really proven and if there’s any doubt, holding on is probably the wise decision. You don’t want equipment critical to your electrical grid or water utility to be compromised.

The second reason is economics, plain and simple. For decades, the US has been the world leader in technical R&D and innovation. That has slowly shifted and is being challenged by – you guessed it – China. China has harnessed the power of its government, including billions and billions in funding, to overtake and surpass the US through an initiative called MIC (Made In China) 2025. The current global pandemic has also contributed to further tensions between the two countries , with President Biden issuing executive orders to address the supply of medical supplies and rare metals, in addition to previous rules regarding chips and batteries.

5G radio tower

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central

There is also concern that China is using less than scrupulous practices such as IP theft, reverse engineering, and even state-sponsored financial terrorism (for lack of a better term) to make headway against the west. These ideas and economic concerns have been pushed by multiple US lawmakers, prompting a response from the government. Was the MIC 2025 initiative an actual step to push the US further into economic ruin, or is China backing industrial espionage efforts against US companies? There is no hard evidence, but many in the US government believe this.

The consequences for the consumer are not as bad as it could be. Yes, it is difficult to buy a new car and the introduction of new smartphones has been delayed several times, but the US economy has not collapsed yet. Other, less visible faults also occur on a daily basis. For example, telecom giant Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) recently had to remove all Huawei equipment because it wants to provide services with the USDA. In addition, the FCC wants to ban Huawei and others from selling surveillance and security cameras currently used in schools and airports in the US, a move that will no doubt follow an order to remove the equipment. While there are programs that provide taxpayers’ money to businesses because of these measures, consumers will still see higher prices.

What’s next?

Fallout 76 Nuclear Winter

Source: Bethesda

Based on worldwide sales figures, the US is on the cusp of winning this war, but those data can be deceiving. If there are concerns that companies like Huawei are nothing more than state-sponsored manufacturing facilities, making a profit doesn’t really matter as long as global disruption is the real goal.

China is the largest single market for almost everything in the world. It has the most people, who need (and want) the most things, and its growth is in the same key areas that caused such a boom in the US in the decades after World War II: manufacturing. Not only technical manufacturing, but also more mundane, but essential things such as wood and steel.

The current trade war may slowly tear down those industries by trying to deny the technology needed to grow and modernize, but it won’t have much of an impact. The US is focused on another strong point, which is technical R&D and innovation. Our government believes that stifling growth in hostile countries is necessary to grow at home. It may be true, and some economists would certainly agree. On a positive note, the dual support for technology exchanges and actual government investment in core technology companies.

Both countries are playing the long game, so things will get worse before they get better.

China is also playing the long game, and it started earlier. The Chinese government has an investment in every major company within its borders, tech-related or not. Funding and support will increase to boost growth, especially against an economic adversary that has expressed its wish to no longer be friendly. You really can’t blame the US or China here, because both governments look after their own interests and those of their citizens.

Right now, the best thing we can do as consumers is to support initiatives that move us as a nation toward the goals we all believe in and hope that the economic war does not turn into a conventional war.

This post The tech war with China won’t increase until 2022

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