Tag Archives: Europe

Worrying About Huawei: Is China Winning the G5 Race?

20 Feb

[Prefatory Note:The following post contains my responses to questions posed by Sputnik News Agency a few days ago. The effort to warn European countries not to use equipment from the Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, is part warning and part threat. It claims to be a matter of security, but seems like an effort to avoid the competitive challenge posed by the superior technology of Huawei by claiming a threat to the security of European countries because China will be able to engage in unauthorized data surveillance. Waiting for American counterpart technology is a way of saying our surveillance will be less of a problem in the future than would a comparable Chinese capability. Underneath, one wonders whether this is a matter of protecting American business interests. In any event,

It is, at best, unusual for an American Secretary of State to warn foreign governments in a public speech about a specific foreign company.]

 

 

Worrying About Huawei: Is China Winning the G5 Race?

 

Sputnik: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned European countries on Monday that using technology from Huawei could hurt their relationship with the United States. Speaking in Hungary, the first stop in a five-nation European tour, Pompeo said the United States has an obligation to alert other governments to the risks of building networks with equipment from the Chinese telecommunications giant.

1. What is your response such statements? Do you consider such steps diplomatically appropriate?

 

We cannot take Mr. Pompeo’s statements at face value, and must consider several lines of possible explanation.

First of all, what is the basic motivation for such warnings to European countries with respect to Huawei? Is it primarily economic or political? If economic, it is a matter of gaining leverage for American and maybe European competitors of Huawei. It should be realized in this connection that Huawei mobile phones have been almost totally excluded from the American market on the basis of what is probably a specious argument, namely, that it gives China a backdoor entry to private communications among Americans. In this sense, the issue is really about economic competition with regard to the lucrative 5G network being currently constructed on a country by country basis, with the American complaint being disguised as one of security. Highly relevant is the fact that U.S. companies are reported to be one or two years behind Huawei’s 5G technological capabilities.

Even if it is political, in part, endangering privacy, encroaching on national sovereignty, and giving China some potential geopolitical advantages, the argument is slanted and disingenuous.

 

Even if it is political, in part, endangering privacy, encroaching on national sovereignty, and giving China some potential geopolitical advantages, the strong impression is that Pompeo is worried about China gaining influence in Europe at the expense of the United States. Pompeo’s argument is, at best, slanted and disingenuous.

The US, as the Snowden disclosures showed several years ago, is engaged in by far the largest mega-data collection operation going on in the world, and there is no reason to think that it has abandoned such efforts to control global surveillance capabilities.

 

I believe Pompeo’s warning that if Hungary and other governments in Europe do business with Huawei on the 5G network it would become “more difficult for us to partner with you” is both a political and economic attempt to discourage normal dealing with this Chinese company. It also tells the peoples and governments of Europe that are better off being vulnerable to American 5G penetration than to Chinese pernetration.

 

This kind of threat diplomacy is rather normal in international relations, at least behind closed doors, although it is not consistent with seeking friendly overall international relations. During the Trump presidency what has usually been discussed discreetly and non-provocatively in the past is now shouted from the rooftops. Such a crude diplomacy naturally raises global tensions, and gives rise to retaliatory threats and countermoves. It is not surprising, then, to learn that there are rumors of Chinese responses, threatening the operations of American companies doing business in China.

 

As for the alleged American concerns about the privacy rights of Europeans and the sanctity of national sovereignty, an element of hypocrisy is present. Surely, the United States has for decades engaged in extensive surveillance operations globally that pose grave threats to privacy and sovereign rights of all countries, including its friends and allies. To complain about China is to give the false impression that other political actors in the West have not pushed the boundaries of technology precisely to gain intelligence advantages and possible leverage for intervention in the internal affairs of other countries to the extent that they possess the technological capacity to do so. As with recent complaints about influencing foreign elections, the U.S. Government objects to practices that it has long and extensively relied upon to spread its influence in violation of the sovereign rights of foreign nations. Such habitual practice does not make it justifiable, but it does undercut a posture of outrage and innocence.

 

These considerations should be understood in any adequate evaluation of Pompeo’s warning about Huawei.

 

 

  1. How are the EU states likely to react? Will they shun away from using Huawei technology?

 

It is very difficult to anticipate how the states in Europe will react, and whether this reaction will be a unified EU response or depend on economic and political assessments made by each European government. There are current indications, for instance, of an internal conflict in the Czech Republic as between its intelligence agency that has conveyed warnings similar to those of Pompeo and with the Czech president, Milos Zeman, who seeks to avoid trouble with China over such concerns because he fears it might spoil present positive commercial and diplomatic relations.

 

On a geopolitical plane, especially in an EU or NATO context, this competitive view of 5G as between China and the United States, creates a situation of fundamental choice for Europe. In view of Trump’s rather dismissive approach to the traditional core alliance relations, the EU and the main governments in Europe are given an opportunity to send Washington two crucial messages: first, ‘the Cold War is over, we will seek greater national and regional independence in pursuing our interests;” secondly, “don’t take our friendship and solidarity for granted any loner or we will go elsewhere, and there are places to go.”

 

There is finally the underlying question of technology. Is Huawei ahead of the game, and likely to stay there, making it advantageous for Europe to be linked with this Chinese company rather than waiting around for an uncertain equivalent development by American companies? Are there European potential competitors for the supply of this technology that would be more reliable and beneficial with respect to maximizing Europe’s future private and public sector interests. Such European capabilities with regard to G5 network, repairs, and supplies might also give the EU and its members an option of equidistance diplomacy, being neither dependent upon or vulnerable to pressure exerted. by either Beijing or Washington.

 

In effect, there are many issues that remain to be interpreted and commented upon in relation to Pompeo’s rather unusual statements in Hungary. His remarks need also to be connected with the recent detention of Chief Financial Officer of Huawei and daughter of the CEO, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada on several charges, including stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies leading to an American formal request for extradition.

 

 

 

 

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Wider Consequences of U.S. Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

7 Jul

Interview with Daniel Falcone, June 21, 2018, initially published in TruthOut, July 3, 2018

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Questions on U.S. Withdrawal from UNHRC

 

  1. What are your thoughts on the US pulling out of the UNHRC and how are Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley’s disparaging and overly defensive claims different from what is taking place in the background? They’ve remarked how the UNHRC is “hypocritical and self-serving” and remarked of its “chronic anti-Israel bias.” What is it about the UNHRC that compels the US to disengage?

 

I think the superficial response to this latest de-internationalizing move is the tendency of the Trump Administration to align its policies in conformity with Israeli priorities and preferences, which have long focused on the Human Rights Council (HRC) as a venue hostile to their policies and practices. HRC is the most important actor in the UN System in which geopolitical pressures can be largely neutralized, partly because there is no veto, and partly because it is representative of the frustrations that the world as a whole has felt for decades in response to the dual Israel posture of defying international law while constantly expanding their grip on what was internationally widely understood after the 1967 War as territory set aside for a Palestinian sovereign state. This interactive process has gone on so long as to seem irreversible at this point, making the two-state solution reflective of the international consensus no longer a realistic option, which appears to leave open the path to an Israeli one-state solution that corresponds with the maximal Zionist vision of establishing a Jewish state with sovereignty over the whole of Palestine, which from the Zionist perspective is ‘the promised land’ of Jews by virtue of a biblical entitlement. Such a rationalization completely ignores the normative primacy in the 21stcentury of the right of self-determination to be exercised by the majority resident population and its legitimate representatives. This circumstances helps explain both Palestinian resistance and Israeli reliance on an apartheid matrix of control to shatter opposition to its goals.

 

Rather than an anti-Israeli bias, the UN as a whole, and the HRC in particular, have done too little rather than too much with respect to expressing disapproval of Israel’s policies and practices in Palestine. It should be recalled that after the British gave up their Mandatory status as administrator of Palestine after World War II, the UN was tasked with finding a solution to the tensions between the majority Palestinian population and the Jewish minority (of about 30% in 1947). It came up with a partition plan embodied in General Assembly Resolution 181, which when rejected by the Palestinians produced the Partition War resulting in the removal, mostly by force, of about 750,000 Palestinians from the area set aside for a Jewish state, and the prolonged occupation of 22% of the territory that remained of the Palestine Mandated territory, governed by Jordan until 1967, and subsequently militarily administered by Israel. In other words, the UN has failed to produce a sustainable solution that protects minimal Palestinian rights, much less its fundamental right of self-determination, and has been unable to curb Israeli behavior to conform to the constraints of international humanitarian law. It should be understood that the UN has no comparable unfulfilled responsibility with respect to any other territory in the world, and its attention to Israeli defiance is more of an expression of institutional frustration and futility than it meant to mount a serious challenge to Israeli behavior, including its flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols. To the extent Israel is challenged it comes from Palestinian resistance initiatives, as witnessed recently in the lengthy demonstrations and killings associated with the Great Return March, and secondarily, from the intensifying global solidarity movement highlighted by the growing success of the BDS Campaign. It is this success that is much more threatening to Israel than anything that happens at the UN, and helps explain their frantic effort to criminalize and penalize those that are active BDS supporters.

 

 

  1. How can you describe the current reputation of the United States in world affairs? There was talk of the US pulling out preemptively as to avoid a embarrassing condemnation from the UN for the US/Israel treatment of Gaza.

 

The U.S. by design and incompetence has pushed itself increasingly into a sterile ‘America, First’ corner that has increased tensions in several regions of the world, loosened long-term alliance relations, weakened multilateral lawmaking, and raised risks of nuclear and regional warfare. Instead of seeking to overcome the turmoil that is causing massive suffering in the Middle East, the United States has lent material and diplomatic support to genocidal war making directed at Yemen and joined with Israel and Saudi Arabia in pushing toward a regime-changing intervention in Iran with dire potential consequences both for the Iranian people and the region, and possibly the world. The Trump repudiation of the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with Iran and the Paris climate change agreement is to retreat from positive internationalismand its global leadership role exercised since 1945, as well as to disrupt the institutional and treaty frameworks facilitating global trade and investment. This combination of warmongering militarism and exclusionary nationalism is generating a new American foreign policy that might be identified as illiberal internationalism, or maybe more graphically as negative internationalism. It is not only causing dangerous forms of confrontation, it is also acting as a catastrophic distraction from urgent problem-solving imperatives of this period of world history, especially, meeting the challenges of climate change, biodiversity, nuclearism, migration, and extreme poverty.

 

 

  1. Real Clear Politics asserted that, “the international community stokes Gazans’ ruinous belief that Israel belongs to them and fuels their delusive dream of return. On May 18, for example, the U.N. Human Rights Council again improperly intervened in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of Hamas.” This outlet is called “ideologically diverse.” How crucial is Israel’s role in the US pullout?

 

It is difficult to assess the motivational calculus that prompted the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC. It seems over-determined, especially consistent with this pattern during the Trump presidency of withdrawing from otherpositive internationalistarrangements mentioned earlier. Surely, Israeli hostility to the HRC, which I experienced personally while serving as HRC Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, is a factor, but to what extent, is impossible to say. In some respects, the HRC withdrawal seems parallel to the provocative move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem. In effect, we think we are punishing the world by our refusal to participate in these international arrangements, but in reality we are harming ourselves.

 

 

4.Describe the structure of US geopolitics at the moment and how are allies reacting to this unclear and confusing period? Also, do you see any good press coverage?

 

I think the Trump pattern is so erratic and dangerously destabilizing that it impairs our capacity to acknowledge positive initiatives even if narcissistically or defensively motivated. I find the liberal Democratic criticism of the Korean nuclear accommodation as the prime example, but another is the indistinct effort to normalize relations with Russia, avoiding a second Cold War. As suggested, Trump may be seeking glory for the Korean diplomacy and his fears of Moscow disclosures about his finances might drive his approach to Putin and Russia, but even such dubious and dark motives should not color our judgment of the policy? The mainstream media seems so polarized with respect to the Trump presidency, and thus tends mindlessly to condemn or applaud, with little by way of effort to disentangle the policy from the person.

 

Trump’s crude pushback against European allies has generated confusion. On the one side, there is a European sense that the time has come to cut free from the epoch of Cold War dependence on Washington, and forge security and economic policy more independently in accord with the social democratic spirit of ‘Europe, First.’ At the same time, there is a reluctance to risk breaking up a familiar framework that has brought Europe a long period of relative stability and mostly healthy economic development to Europe. Such considerations create a mood of ambivalence and uncertainty, perhaps thinking that Trump is a temporary aberration from reestablishing a more durable framework versus the idea that Trumpism has given Europe and the separate states an opportunity to achieve a political future more in accord with the values and interests of the region and its member states than its longtime deference to the shifting moods and priorities of Washington. Also, Europe is now facing its own rising forms of right-wing populism, chauvinistic nationalism, and a resulting crisis of confidence in the viability of the European Union under pressures from the refugee influx and the unevenness of economic conditions in northern Europe as distinct from Mediterranean Europe.

 

Finally, the Asian context is different. Trump has sought to focus on revising the economic relationship with China in ways that supposedly help American business and consumers. In this pursuit, it would be helpful to stabilize the Korean peninsula and keep firm the relationship with Japan. So far, this pattern seems to describe the present approach, but given the clumsy impulsiveness of Trump when it comes to abrupt shifts in policy it is hazardous to make predictions as to the future course of American behavior in the Asian context. Maybe, just maybe, the absence of the Israeli dimension, may give Asian policy more flavor of coherence and rationality, yet such a possibility still involves a radical repudiation of the earlier promotion of neoliberal globalization and international liberalism, and a return to mercantilist approaches to economic nationalism.

 

 

  1. Is there a strategy to this exit because of the Republican Party base in your view? How much of this, like Iran perhaps is for electoral politics?

 

Earlier in the Trump presidency seemed the Republican Party seemed divided, and there was more tension between the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress than recently. Especially after the passage of the pro-rich, pro-business tax bill in 2107, the Trump hold on the Republican Party strengthened to the point that an astonishing 89% of Republicans, according to recent polls, now approve of his presidential leadership. This is profoundly worrisome, and at the same time, revealing that any serious Republican departure from the Trump approach to major political issues will be viewed as virtual political suicide by career-minded Republicans.

 

As for Trump himself, his motivations are hard to assess as he proceeds by intuition, demagogic self-confidence, and unparalleled narcissism, which means no accountability, no truthfulness, and no coherence. Intellectuals tend, as they did with Reagan, to underestimate Trump’s capacity to connect with the raw feelings of ‘ordinary’ Americans, especially those feeling left out. This Trump appeal becomes formidable when bolstered by right-wing financial and ideological support.

 

I feel it is not too alarmist or misleading to talk of the present era of American political life as ‘pre-fascist,’ posing the formidable challenge of reversing the political current in the country as rapidly as possible to avoid any transition from pre-fascism to fascism (in some distinctly American form that refuses the language of fascism while implementing its worldview).