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Two tech gurus come out in defense of Huawei

By Tony Chan in Shenzen

Huawei is now a recognised leader in technology development and the US must deal with that fact or risk falling behind the world, according to two veteran US technology industry identities.

George Gilder and Nicholas Negroponte – two veteran commentators of the technology industry and the digital economy – took the opportunity at an event hosted by Huawei and its founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei to call for the US to reopen its doors to Huawei. Both cited historical precedents that reinforce the role that companies like Huawei can play in advancing the technology ecosystem. By blacklisting Huawei, the US now risks isolating itself from a global technology leader.

According to Negroponte, the US has always relied on global partners in the development of technologies. While the US “invented” βlat panel displays and video tapes, these technologies were ultimately commercialised overseas in Japan because the US “did not have the industrial, commercial courage and ability to develop them,” he said.

“The same things happen with telecommunications. Government funding in my lab stop 20 years ago, and interests in the telecommunications development went elsewhere from the United States, so it’s a Europe, at Ericsson, it’s Nokia, it’s not really in the US anymore,” he said. “So history has shown that the short term, usually quarter-to-quarter, view of American industry precludes some of these big moves in technology.

Huawei looks beyond that and is able to, have been able to, develop things in 5G and other areas that couldn’t happen in the way we’re set up.”

Further, he believed that the US antagonism towards Huawei is creating a catalyst that will further propel Huawei’s lead. It’s Huawei’s “Sputnik” moment, Negroponte said, echoing recent online comments.

“Sputnik [when Russia beat the US to space] caused the United States to do things that it wasn’t already doing, so this is your Sputnik moment,” Negroponte said. “What the United States has done has created Huawei’s Sputnik, and you are going to wake up and do things. And there’s no going back.

Similarly, Gilder believes that America needs to face up to the challenge of global players. “I’m an American, and I believe that we have wonderful entrepreneurial energies, wonderful creativity and wonderful technology. But it’s always thrived in collabo-
ration with other countries… When we were an underdeveloped economy, Ford, Edison, Carnegie, all our great entrepreneurs that established the oil, automobile, electrical industries stole from Europe… everybody said they stole from Europe that they sent spies into European companies and brought back crucial insights that made possible the Ford automobile,” Gilder said.

SUICIDE FOR AMERICA: “What we see here from historic terms is merely the incumbent established technology power, the United States, challenged by an ascending challenger from China, and, and we are trying to beat it back. And that’s a terrible suicidal mistake for the US to make. So I’m a pro American when I say America’s got to deal with Huawei, and with the existence of challengers around the world.”

Further, Gilder said America’s lead in technology is already in doubt. “This idea that we have some impregnable lead in semiconductors that we could use to negotiate force China into compliance with some requirements that we imagine, is
wrong,” he said.

“We have no lead in semiconductors, Taiwan is the leader in semiconductor. Apple’s new CPU had to be made in Taiwan, 7nm geometries were not feasible at Intel anymore. I mean, it’s just false that the United States is in an impregnable position and it doesn’t have to collaborate with China and other countries around the world. It’s an illusion from years gone by.”

SECURITY THE ISSUE: Gilder went on to call the US administration’s treatment of Huawei as a “terrible mistake” and argued that it was a faulty Internet architecture to blame for the current mess. “Address this terrible security collapse across the internet that makes everybody paranoid and nobody trusts anybody else. And it’s really a technical problem that Huawei can address, not a political problem.”

Gilder went on to propose blockchain as the solution to solve the internet security problem. “What’s really critical now is to create an internet of facts and an internet of trust and an internet of transactions…about how trust can be recreated bynew technical solutions through blockchains and cryptography, and other advances that luckily, the whole new generation of technologists are now pioneering,” he said, adding that “many of these political problems tend to dissolve when new technical solutions are presented… I think Huawei can contribute by the way to the internet of trust, which at the same time will make it possible for Huawei to sell products in the US again.”

“How the United States and other countries react to this campaign against Huawei is a test for people around the world. And if they don’t pass it, it will signify that the world is taking a very disruptive turn,” he said. “(Mr Ren) is in the stronger position,
he has the 56,000 patents, he has the 80,000 R&D employees, he is focused on the technologies of the future. It’s the United States that really will suffer for any effort to decouple [the technology sector].”


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