Huawei and the terrible conflict we feel


If you work in tech, you a) work in global markets b) probably believe the best tech should win, even if you concede it does not always, and c) identity with political movements that support science. All reasons why you may be a tad uncomfortable with the rising nationalism over recent years, the number of racially/religiously motivated hate crimes in recent times, and the movement away from free trade – an idea that was not too long ago broadly believed to be the path to a more united world, and also the path to lifting billions of people out of a level of poverty most people in affluent countries can not even imagine.

The recent decision by the IEEE to stand behind legal advice not to allow Huawei employees to review papers, even if they can remain members, really brings the current trade negotiations between China and America into clear focus if you work in networking.

Is there a significant legal exposure here, or is the IEEE failing to push hard on their lawyers to rank/quantify the risk, as happens too often in companies/entities? Should the IEEE stand on principle despite the risk? Is this a form of unconscious bias/prejudice? Questions I suspect more than a few networkers are asking this week.

After years of observing and competing against China Inc., I’m not completely unsympathetic to what is going on. No one believes China has a history of strong support for intellectual property. State engagement/policy has greatly assisted Chinese vendors inside and outside of China. Protecting domestic infrastructure is a responsibility of American governments. China is not an American military ally, and has worked with countries banned by America / not friendly to America.

But then we return with our heart and register compassion towards the Chinese engineers who feel outraged by what the IEEE has declared. China invests heavily in science, has good engineers in some areas, and at the science and engineering level is a member of the global tech industry. Could it be that Huawei engineers suffer the hurt of internalizing this action as at least unfair, and possibly a form of soft racism? At a human level, we feel for the hurt of others, no matter where our analytical minds may lead us.

Some recent hate crimes around the world have been horrific and soul sapping. It is in this context that we naturally cringe when we see a group, that is a minority in America, singled out.

When Elephants dance, all other smaller and less powerful things are more at risk. America and China are the Elephants. Both have nationalist political parties. Both want to be top dog on the global stage. Each is an economic and military threat to the other. The twentieth century was the American century. The 21st century has been a century of great growth and achievement for China. China’s economic growth increases its military threat to America.

A long essay could be written on trade negotiations, military concerns, business culture, and business practices. These are all important for those assessing the nuances of geopolitical conflict, free trade, and fair trade. These are not lightweight subjects.

For technologists, The Important, is improving the world through the best technology, by the best engineers. I’m assuming most technologists can’t wait for this conflict to be finished and for the global technical community to be whole.

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