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a visitor from China, holds a sign in support of Huawei outside of the B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is being held on an extradition warrant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada December 10, 2018. REUTERS/David Ryder/File Photo - RC179918A790
Reuters/David Ryder

What Huawei tells us about Trump, trade, and technology

Member exclusive by Gwynn Guilford

Even by his own rhetorical standards, Donald Trump’s trade war policies don’t make a ton of sense. The president says his confrontation with China is about trade (see: his repeated complaints about the US-China trade deficit and his use of punitive trade barriers). But the core of the conflict isn’t really about trade at all. It’s about technology.

The administration’s biggest beef with China is that it steals US intellectual property and practices an industrial policy that advantages Chinese technological companies. So it’s about demanding fairness and free competition, right? Increasingly, it seems, not so. Trump’s recent actions suggest his goal is a nationalistic approach to economic development—one that swivels on shielding US technological dominance from Chinese ambitions.

It’s no coincidence that the one company that illustrates these tensions best is now trapped in the middle of the US-China trade war.