Trump Can No Longer Afford to Be So Ridiculous Toward Huawei

Trump Can No Longer Afford to Be So Ridiculous Toward Huawei
Chinatopix via AP
Story Stream
recent articles

The 4G revolution was truly transformative. With 4G, GPS-enabled smartphones increasingly standard, it became possible for companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates and others to rewrite how we live, and also where we live. Can anyone imagine going back to life before our ability to summon transportation, meals, and all manner of other goods and services with a tap on our phones?

What about how we work more broadly? Fast, internet-enabled phones made work an everywhere, all-the-time concept for tens of millions. With supercomputers that fit in our pockets, we could work productively, including in teleconference fashion (think Zoom, among other things), from anywhere.

Which brings us to the latest news about Chinese telecom-equipment maker Huawei. A Trump administration that doesn’t seem to understand how damaging its embrace of the lockdowns has been, is restating its plans to impose export restrictions “designed to cut off” Huawei from access to technologies produced stateside.

The stated reason for the desired cessation of exchange is that Huawei is an arm of the Chinese state, and would use the technology to “spy” for the Chinese Communist Party around the world. It’s hard not to laugh at what’s so completely absurd.

To believe the spying, arm of the state narrative, we’d have to believe that governments can actually plan world-leading companies that meet the exacting standards of businesses and individuals around the world. For the longest time conservatives used to tell us – properly – that government-run anything fails, and fails resoundingly, but not, it seems, with the Chinese government and Huawei.

That a company with so much riding on its good name would risk it all by spying for politicians is another one of those absurdities that Huawei’s critics never stopped to think about, but then very little thought has gone into the federal government’s attacks on Huawei to begin with. Conservatives used to take it as a given that governmental attacks on businesses would achieve much less than nothing, but their man is the one attacking.

“Allowances” are being made for President Trump as he attempts to plan economic outcomes; allowances that wouldn’t have been made by Republicans for his White House predecessor. To say that the Republican stance on government meddling in commerce changes when Republicans are doing the meddling is quite the understatement. Along these lines, it’s also interesting to imagine the certain rage within the GOP if it were Hillary Clinton’s administration attempting to manage exchange between American and Chinese companies, not to mention the Clinton Commerce Department seeking “veto over the kinds of technology that Huawei can use.”

The Trump administration’s errors are extra galling in consideration of how much weaker the U.S. economy is at present relative to two months ago. Attempts to limit the technology sales of U.S. companies are plainly problematic on their own, but they’re quite a bit more problematic given the business climate faced by some of the most dynamic American companies. Odds are sales are difficult to come by in consideration of command-and-control’s recent imposition, so how devastating it would be for the Trump administration to try and cut off a size buyer of U.S. product at this time in particular.

The good news is that the Trump administrations actions won’t prove effective. Unless U.S. technology providers cease selling their wares altogether, what they produce will ultimately reach corporations around the world, including Huawei. Short of hoarding what’s produced, there’s no accounting for the final destination of any good. Not only are the Trump administration’s actions bothersome for the pretense about the federal government engaging in industrial policy, not only are they shameful at a time when sales are a huge priority, they also vandalize basic economics. There’s once again no accounting for the final destination of any good.

But the main thing is that the Trump administration’s actions are most problematic for the damage they would do to every single American. To understand why that’s true, readers must first consider the present economic outlook. It’s by some accounts dire.

That it is makes plain how very much the Trump administration is not in position to limit technology sales to Huawei. It’s not when the truth behind the desired limits is properly understood. What scares federal officials the most given their sometimes backwards, mercantilist view of the world, is that a Chinese company might – gasp – roll out 5G communications technology first. To someone like Trump who sees trade as war, as opposed to something that enriches all who engage in it, the Chinese “beating” us to 5G would somehow amount to a black mark on Trump himself. It wouldn’t, but that’s how he thinks.

Back to reality, Trump is not in a position to play protectionist when it comes to 5G. If the technology is as amazing as the Administration and others say it will be, it’s essential that Americans attain access to it as quickly as possible.

Precisely because the economy is weak, American innovators need access to technology that will result in capital and business formation previously unimagined. If any reader doubts this, ask yourself if you were demanding Uber and other amazing advances like it, and that were enabled by 4G. Imagine then, what 5G will mean.

If 5G is what they say it is, the positive economic impact of its rollout will be profound. And if Huawei is the company most capable of providing it, U.S. politicians (including Trump) should get out of the way.

The Trump administration and the political class more broadly can no longer afford to be ridiculous. The economy is too weak for that. So let’s stop the economically illiterate attacks on Huawei with our economic interests top of mind. If Huawei’s got the 5G goods, Americans need what Huawei can provide them for them as quickly as possible.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading ( His new book is titled They're Both Wrong: A Policy Guide for America's Frustrated Independent Thinkers. Other books by Tamny include The End of Work, about the exciting growth of jobs more and more of us love, Who Needs the Fed? and Popular Economics. He can be reached at  

Show comments Hide Comments