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Opinion

Huawei to Joe Biden: Let's talk

It is time to find a way forward

| China
Huawei is open to discussing anything.   © Sipa/AP

Vincent Peng is a senior vice president at Huawei, and a member of the company's board.

Two years ago this month, the Trump Administration placed Huawei Technologies on a blacklist that blocked U.S. companies from selling us the tech components we need to make smartphones and other products as well.

That restriction was followed by others, including a move last year to prevent Huawei from buying chips from the world's largest maker of semiconductors Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), a Taiwan-based manufacturer whose chips are made with equipment from U.S. companies.

The U.S. government took these actions because it believes that as a Chinese company, Huawei could be forced to launch cyberattacks on American telecommunications networks, as well as provide Beijing with the ability to engage in espionage activity in the U.S.

Cybersecurity has dominated the news lately. Earlier this month U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at strengthening America's cyber defense following a ransomware attack that shut down America's biggest fuel pipeline for several days, as well as last year's damaging attacks on U.S. government agencies and private companies perpetrated through Microsoft Exchange and an IT company called Solar Winds.

If Biden's executive order leads the U.S. government to adopt a more fact-based approach to cybersecurity, that will be all to the good. In fact, the order could actually benefit both the U.S. and China -- if it is coupled with renewed American acceptance of global competition rather than a continuing slide toward protectionism.

If the Biden administration embraces competition, U.S. and Chinese companies can continue down a well-trodden path that has strengthened their intertwined economies over the past decade. But if President Biden follows Trump's lead in permitting competition only when it aligns with U.S. political aims, the global economy will extend its headlong rush into economic and technological decoupling.

In the short term, separating America's supply chains from China will hurt some Chinese companies -- including Huawei, whose overseas revenues declined last year as a result of the blacklist. But in time, decoupling will cost the U.S. an estimated $190 billion in lost GDP," according to U.S. research outfit The Rhodium Group. It will also hurt American companies' leadership in semiconductors and other technologies by shrinking their revenues and forcing them to cut R&D spending.

Decoupling will cost the U.S. an estimated $190 billion in lost GDP.   © Imaginechina/AP

Unfortunately, the damage does not stop there. According to Economist Intelligence Unit estimates, a full decoupling of trade between China and the Five Eyes countries -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. -- would cost the global economy more than $50 trillion.

Even the U.S. government's own National Intelligence Council has warned that splitting the world into several economic and security blocs will impose extraordinary costs, including "massive financial losses for countries and corporations, as supply chains fracture, markets are lost, and once lucrative sectors, like travel and tourism, decline."

Huawei is caught in a rivalry between two great powers. Although U.S.-China relations may not thaw any time soon, it seems clear that the current administration is taking a more multilateral approach to the world than its predecessor did.

This gives us hope that there may eventually be a change in how the U.S. government chooses to treat Huawei and other global technology companies headquartered outside of the United States.

We understand that the administration is busy coping with COVID and trying to boost the U.S. economy. But we also hope that when the time is right, they will talk to us. To ease their concerns about our products and technologies, we are prepared to be subject to stringent monitoring processes.

We're open to discussing anything, including opening Huawei's equipment to independent testing, or licensing our fifth-generation, or 5G, technology to a U.S. company or consortium.

Washington may want to consider the company's CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei's offer to license Huawei's 5G technology to an American company. The agreement could include part or all of Huawei's 5G patent portfolio, including software source code, hardware designs and technologies related to manufacturing, network planning and testing.

There are several U.S. companies that could take this on, and it seems reasonable to assume that one or two might be interested in learning more. But they are unlikely to speak up without the U.S. government's blessing.

America is in a strong position to enhance its global technology leadership by collaborating with international technology companies, including those based in China. We hope that instead of lumping together many disparate China-related issues for bargaining purposes, as his predecessor did, President Biden will disaggregate the issues and examine each one on its merits.

A better future will be built by people working together; no company or country can do it alone. The U.S. and China must find a way to compete and collaborate despite their differences.

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