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Technological advances are promoting industrial, social, and national development

December 30, 2020

RIYADH — At present, the world is undergoing a profound technological revolution. New technologies that once seemed inaccessible are now widely deployed, and technological advances are promoting industrial, social, and national development in various domains, especially healthcare by the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cutting-edge technologies are rapidly integrating into people’s daily lives, and play an increasingly important role in the operations of enterprises. We are embracing a fully connected and super-intelligent world that will benefit all aspects of human life and drive economic prosperity.

The roll-out of next-generation 5G wireless networks can be a real game-changer and one in which some Middle Eastern countries are currently leading in. But, to make this happen, openness, transparency, close collaboration, and providing fair opportunities to all is vital.

In this context, one of the most significant issues in the world of digitization, technology and 5G is the United States ban on Huawei technologies and solutions, and what that means for businesses and consumers in the Middle East and around the world.

As a private company, Huawei is a true representative of Chinese technology and innovation, reaching out to the world with advanced technologies and solutions, particularly in AI, computing and 5G. As the digital era evolves and the world’s continuous need for new technologies regardless of its origin country, the blacklisting of Huawei by the US is an event of historic significance.

Since 2019, the US administration added Huawei to an “entity list” that barred many US companies from engaging with Huawei, and has since tried to pressure its allies to not engage Huawei on 5G network developments.

The current US policies essentially limit Huawei from procuring necessary components for its 5G division, as well as its broader advanced technology portfolio. The premise of these policies has always been “national security”, and that Huawei posed a security threat to the Western world.

However, there have been limited results of this US-led campaign, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the US administration’s policies are less about security and more about Western dominance in emerging technologies like 5G.

Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo went so far as to say that Europe “needs to get” Huawei “out of their system” as part of ensuring “that the next century remains a Western one.”

US Attorney General William Barr was quoted as saying that some private American businesses are actually the “problem” for not doing enough to maintain American strength.

Barr has advocated for “cracking down” on Chinese researchers “who are sent over to get involved in our key technological programs”, urging the West to shut out Chinese companies like Huawei and prefer Western brands such as Finland-based Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson when it comes to 5G.

Also, in an interview given to Fox Business, Barr went on to admit that: 'We've been the technological leader of the world. In the last decade or so, China has been putting on a great push to supplant us explicitly.'

He would go on to say how the Western world 'has to pick' a Huawei competitor to invest in so as to claw back a technological dominance. The reality is that, for the first time in history, the US is not leading the next technological era.

This is happening by companies in China, and many other brands from the East. Technology — and particularly 5G networks — have become especially important in the context of COVID-19, with an ability to support huge surges in network traffic connecting people and machines more than ever before.

While the US has no national company competing in 5G, it still has great power to enforce economic sanctions, which is what they are doing now until they can figure out how to catch up.

This is important for the Middle East as aggressive actions against 5G technology supply chains harm all economies. Today we are interdependent as a region and as a global society. We rely on each other and on digital infrastructure to keep borders open, trade flowing, and to share knowledge.

Considering the US’s resistance to China’s emerging digital power, the Huawei case is just the latest in a series of similar events by the US. It represents an important point of the global digital relationships and supply chain balances. Of course, cyber security is a concern in our digital age, but it is not specific to any one country or company.

The real danger is using “national security” as an excuse to mask other nationalist ambitions. When these ambitions undermine our common desire for digital transformation, sustainable development, and free trade, in the end, we all lose.