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Mao’s Mausoleum in Huawei’s Hands

Mao’s Mausoleum in Huawei’s Hands

Monday, 8 July, 2019 - 06:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
On the United States’ Independence Day, President Donald Trump went to great lengths to boast of his achievements and deride his opponents. He presented himself as the guardian of the continuation of the American Dream. He tried to address the America that grows excited about being prosperous and strong and being number one. He insisted on reminding the people of his country’s arsenal, as the rarely seen B-2 stealth bomber flew over Washington. With a very optimistic tone, Trump declared that "for Americans, nothing is impossible,” drawing cheers from the crowd.

He reminded his citizens that they are the descendants of pioneering inventors and victorious generals in major battles. He pledged that the United States will soon send a man to the moon and beyond, to "plant the American flag on Mars." He said: "We will always be the people who defeated a tyrant, crossed a continent, harnessed science, took to the skies, and soared into the heavens, because we will never forget that we are Americans, and the future belongs to us."

The advocate of the “America First” slogan never ceases to remind in his tweets that his country’s economy is the strongest in the world. He does not hesitate in saying that the US military is the most powerful on the planet. It is as if he is responding to claims that the United States’ time at the number one spot was coming to an end and that the Chinese age was definitely coming in perhaps less than two decades.

It is clear from Trump’s remarks that Russia is no longer the primary concern. It is true that Vladimir Putin succeeded in saving the Russian federation from the storm that broke up the Soviet Union, he restored the dignity of the Red Army and restored Russia as a major player in the international arena. However, it is also true that Russia’s Putin did not achieve as successful an economic leap as its political one. This therefore, deprives it of the label of “number one enemy” or “number one partner”. Moscow no longer worries Washington, rather, China does.

We, the journalists of the Middle East, are mired in the tragedies of this thorny part of the world. We follow its problems and collapses and nearly forget that the future of this global village is not shaped here. This is what I sensed in Osaka among the thousands of journalists who flocked to the Japanese city to attend the G20 summit.

I asked a Japanese journalist about his opinion. He responded: “The issues proposed at the summit table are important and complex. They concern countries near and far, as well as the stability of the economy, trade, investment and development. The major issue at hand, however, is China’s rise. Perhaps we are on the way towards a major change in a decade or a little more. The repercussions of this change will be no less momentous than the fall of the Berlin wall.”

I pondered his remarks. I asked him about his opinion, as a Japanese, about China’s rise to occupy the second spot in the global economy, while Japan had to make do with third. He replied: “The Chinese rise is a fact and the world has to prepare itself to get used to it. We have no choice but to return to motivating our universities and research centers and become more involved in the open technological revolution. When a giant wakes up beside you, you cannot ignore him. China is a worrisome dragon. It is a major force that is forging ahead in the world and into the future.”

“What really worries is us is that it is so far a mysterious force. We cannot decipher its real intentions because it is not a democratic state in the common sense of the word. Some fear that its experience may send a message that achieving economic and technological advances is possible without fulling into the lure of democracy. This message has reverberations beyond Asia. This is why Japan needs to constantly maintain its relations with the rising power and maintain its deep alliances, especially with the United States,” he said.

The American-Chinese meeting in Osaka was preceded by other events. In early 2017, when Trump was ready to assume his duties at the White House, we heard a speech at the great hall in Davos that was delivered by an exceptional orator called Xi Jinping. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China defended globalization and the removal of obstacles in a clear message to the newly-elected American president. He said that no one will emerge victorious in the trade war. A year later, Trump stood at the same platform and it became clear to observers that the American and Chinese dreams were headed towards a clash. It is a battle for the number one economic position in the world and some view it as the battle of the current century.

Trump did not conceal his desire to rein in the Chinese dragon under the pretext of removing the flaws in trade relations between Washington and Beijing. He imposed tariffs on Chinese goods and the beating of the drums of the trade war began. Experts were quick to say that this war will surely harm the Chinese economy, but that the American economy will also not be spared from it. The same goes for the global economy, especially after the Belt and Road initiative expanded in the global villages.

At the Osaka summit between Trump and Xi, the journalist must have also paid attention to the third man, who was not present at the talks, but whose shadow weighed heavily over it. It is the shadow of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the world’s second smartphone company and pioneer in 5G networks.

The story of the third man sums up the Chinese dream that is today attacking the American one after it brushed aside Japan. He witnessed hardships growing up in Mao’s China, however, this engineer, who passed through the military later banked on technological advances and innovation. And here we have America fearing that Huawei’s domination of 5G networks could expose the world’s secrets to the Communist Party of China, which enshrined Xi’s name in its charter alongside Mao and Deng Xiaoping.

It is the race of the century. China has changed and the world has to change. It has placed Mao’s mausoleum in the hands of Huawei’s imagination. The great captain’s teachings have been restricted to his party and used them as a stabilizing tool in China’s rise towards the top. Huawei has achieved what Mao failed to accomplish.

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