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US Huawei blacklist revealed to be pointless

Despite being on a US export blacklist, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has apparently been able to buy billions of dollars of US technology.

When then President Donald Trump issued one of his executive orders, which attempted to prevent almost any commercial interaction between US companies and a host of Chinese ones, it inevitably caused lots of problems. Chief among them, from an American perspective, was that lots of US companies faced a heavy commercial hit as a result of the ban. The blacklist edict offered some wriggle room in the form of special licenses but it was unclear how easy it would be to acquire one.

Now, thanks a to a report from Reuters, we seem to have an answer. It got hold of some documents released by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committee, which reveal that in the six months starting November 2020 US exporters were granted 113 export licenses to flog $61 billion worth of stuff to Huawei. Chinese chipmaker SMIC also benefited from a similar level of concessions.

The motivation for the House to release these documents is unclear but doubtless there’s some kind of political chicanery involved. For the rest of us it serves mainly to illustrate how clumsy and flawed such pieces of top-down political engineering are. The modern world is infinitesimally interconnected and complex, so the law of unintended consequences ensures such efforts often do more harm than good, even to the putative beneficiaries.

Hopefully a positive consequence of this revelation will be the understanding that geopolitical grandstanding is counterproductive. It’s possible that Trump’s war on Huawei did serve notice to the Chinese Communist Party that the US is drawing a line in the sand with respect to suspected excessive intimacy between the public and private sector over there, but it was at best symbolic. In practice, trade will always find a way and future geopolitical policy should be made with that in mind.


9 comments

  1. Avatar Khan 22/10/2021 @ 2:05 pm

    In an interconnected world, there are always loopholes.

  2. Avatar Mohammad Maali 22/10/2021 @ 3:55 pm

    They can’t say our foreign policy and decision were wrong, so keep the ban but issue a temp approval continually

  3. Avatar James F. 23/10/2021 @ 2:41 am

    This article is very misleading. What really matters is whether highly-sensitive technology has been sold to Huawei. None of this is mentioned in the article.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/10/2021 @ 12:12 pm

      This article is misleading because it doesn’t focus on what you want it to?

  4. Avatar Bill Cash 26/10/2021 @ 1:55 am

    Taking back control!

  5. Avatar James F. 27/10/2021 @ 2:22 am

    Kindly leave the dialogue professional and courteous. We have to be precise: The US govt. never said it will completely stop selling to Huawei. So it is not unreasonable that Huawei has been able to buy billions of dollars of US technology. And yet the title says that the blacklist is pointless. Is it? The blacklist is to prevent highly-sensitive technology from being exported to Huawei. If you can show evidence that the billions of dollars of sales comprised sensitive tech, then there is a point to be made.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 27/10/2021 @ 9:16 am

      Can you show evidence that it didn’t?

  6. Avatar Happiman 27/10/2021 @ 3:48 am

    I think you need to learn to shut up as a publisher. It’s the reader’s right to criticize your stupid news articles.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 27/10/2021 @ 9:17 am

      Eh?

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