Chinese tech giant Huawei is leading the world in the race for 5G with more than 3,300 patent applications filed, and over 1,300 of them granted. In the meantime, according to a ranking compiled by IPlytics in November, US 5G leader Qualcomm ranks only seventh among top patent owners.
Engaging itself in a battle of standards setting, the US has been trying to contain Huawei’s development and China’s advance in high-tech fields. But the reality refuses to follow the US script.
“First-tier companies make standards, second-tier companies make technology, and third-tier companies make products.” The popular Chinese saying is also echoed by some Americans, who are facing a growing concern that the supposedly first-tier companies of the US are losing representation in setting technical standards, particularly in the 5G sphere.
Despite the US government’s various bans, Huawei and its Chinese peers have had their voices heard louder in international standards-making organizations, such as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project and the International Telecommunication Union.
The reason for such a scenario is simple: Standards-making is all about technology. It is fundamentally linked to technology competition, in which whoever takes an advanced position can gain an upper hand in setting standards. This is not something politics can manipulate.
The US State Department’s top cybersecurity official Robert Strayer on Tuesday said, “Influence in standards development bodies is becoming as important as influence in multilateral governmental organizations.” But US companies are losing such influence as their enthusiasm to participate in standards-making has been hit hard by the Huawei bans imposed by the US government.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” This is also meaningful in technology activities.
However, the US Congress hasn’t realized its attempts to hinder Huawei’s development are doomed to fail. It recently passed the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that prevents the Department of Commerce from removing Huawei from its Entity List. Such a layman’s legislation will only accelerate the weakening of US companies’ importance in international standards-making organizations.
Huawei’s leading position in the 5G race means the only way for US companies to completely avoid making contact in any form – as the US government’s bans require – with the Chinese company in the standards-making process is to quit.
Washington’s decision has created a “chilling effect” that hurts US companies, which will, as a result, probably lead to their losing the leading position in the telecommunications industry.
Hoping to maintain its interests in the standards-making process, the US has to cooperate with the international community rather than destroy the rule of standards-making and ask other countries to pick sides. This will lead to collateral damage to the world and the US as well.
If the US government fails to realize this and continues its paranoia against Huawei and other Chinese companies instead of participating more actively in international cooperation to keep its innovation capability, the US would miss its opportunity at the very beginning in the face of the estimated $10 trillion market created by 5G.