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Huawei’s woes, Border “wars” and the Week in Review

Blog / Weekly Review

Huawei’s woes, Border “wars” and the Week in Review

Huawei’s woes. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly told government officials to make plans to eliminate China’s (and by extension Huawei’s) involvement in UK infrastructure by 2023. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was initiating a new review of Huawei’s role in the UK and “the security and resilience of [British] networks. Canada has yet to make up its mind on Huawei, but the British Columbia Supreme Court dismissed Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s assertion that extradition proceedings against her did not meet the “double criminality requirement.” Huawei expressed its disappointment, as did China.

What it means: The British decision is a major about-face for Boris Johnson’s government and the NCSC. The logic behind leaving the EU was for the UK to be able to make trade deals on its own and the UK was hoping to be able to take advantage of its eventual freedom by eventually concluding deals with the two largest economies in the world. The US however has made the 5G issue a matter of national security and when it became clear that a trade deal in the US, and even elements of intelligence cooperation, might be in jeopardy as a result of not being tough on Huawei, the British government had little choice but to acquiesce. The NCSC has insisted that it can manage the threat posed by Huawei and it is unlikely to change its mind: this is a political decision. Canada will likely have to fall in line as well. As for Meng: for Canada the issue is primarily a legal one. Trudeau could not intervene even if he wanted. For China, it is a political issue. China views the Canadian government’s actions (or lack thereof) as premeditated.

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A high-altitude fistfight. For a few weeks now, there have been reports of clashes involving Indian and Chinese soldiers. Then came a flurry of stories suggesting military build-ups by both sides and even small skirmishes at two different sections of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that marks the India-China border (some of which is disputed). It appears China is not happy about India building roads and airstrips close to the LAC in order to improve overall connectivity and mobility in the area for Indian military forces, while India media reports that it is China that is expanding an airbase near Ladakh. The United States expressed a willingness to help mediate the conflict.

What it means: It is still hard to know exactly what is going on at the LAC, the reporting is that spotty. Initial reports for instance suggested China had “technically invaded,” quickly sending social media into a tizzy. Now it appears that the border was not violated – but that both sides have deployed around 6,000 soldiers each to various spots along the border. China’s Foreign Ministry insisted on Wednesday that “at present, the overall situation in the China-India border areas is stable and controllable” and that there was sufficient communication to resolve the current stand-off through “dialogue and consultation.” The good news is that neither India nor China have an interest in a military conflict right now and the terrain involved is high in the Himalayan mountains does not lend itself easily to war. The bad news is that India and China cannot afford to appear weak either. Odds are this gets resolved like the Doklam border standoff incident in 2017…but that is far from certain, and these are two ambitious rising powers. What the U.S. President tweets on the subject won’t make much of a difference either way.

Closed Skies. We neglected to mention last week that the US announced that it would be withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty (OST). (The news broke after the newsletter had already “gone to press.”) Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded this week, releasing a detailed rebuttal of U.S. claims that Russia had violated OST and referring to the U.S. decision as “deplorable.” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would “take an extremely balanced approach to analyzing the situation” and respond accordingly. Meanwhile, the United States government is reportedly discussing whether to conduct a nuclear test explosion – if the US did so, it would be the first such test since 1992.

What it means: What year is it? Have we all simply fallen and bumped our heads, and we will we wake up from this madness? Will future U.S. generations get to know the pleasure of hiding under the desks during nuclear missile drills? The Trump Administration has withdrawn the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, it has withdrawn from OST, and there is genuine concern that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could lapse without a replacement when it expires on February 5, 2021. Meanwhile the US is talking about testing nuclear weapons again. Russia’s lengthy rebuttal about its own violations of OST is impressive, and some of it may even be true. The US has also insisted that this is about more than Russia: that any arms control deal that does not also constrain China’s burgeoning capabilities is not in U.S. interests. Sanctions, tariffs, trade wars, and rhetorical posturing are one thing – but this is something else, and it injects a frightening degree of instability into an already destabilizing situation.

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Locusts. The locust swarm that originated in the Arabian Peninsula and has since spread both east and west, wreaking havoc in East Africa and posing threats throughout the Indian Ocean region, has now spread to India in earnest. The pictures are stark. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), strong westerly winds associated with Cyclone Amphan in Bay of Bengal have allowed the locusts to spread fast in India. The FAO also noted swarms in Oman, the UAE, and Uganda. The World Bank has approved $500 million worth of grants and loans to help African and Middle Eastern countries cope.

What it means: We’ve kept track of this story for weeks now and it is far from over. Remember: this swarm of locusts was caused by weather patterns in 2019 that brought more rain to the region than normal. This is a climate-change-induced crisis. The good news is that the harvest in India was already completed in some parts of India – though not all of it. The bad news is that India’s vaunted control protocols and plans at least for now seems to have struggled to cope with the recent influx. The next weeks will be critical; if India cannot get this plague under control before the monsoon season begins in north India at the end of June, it could lead to another breeding cycle. The threat posed in East Africa and the Middle East remains dire and could lead to significant human suffering and political unrest in the months ahead.

Honorable mention

Russian natural gas deliveries to Germany via the Yamal Pipeline stopped shortly after a transportation agreement between Russian and Poland expired.

The U.S. Consumer Price Index for food registered some eye-popping month-on-month and year-on-year food prices increases for the previous month.

The US has proof that Russia had deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya.

The European Commission published its proposal for an EU recovery plan.

China reportedly has a new plan to spend almost $1.4 trillion to reduce China’s dependence on foreign technology by 2025.

Ethiopia and Sudan will resume negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam; Egypt said it was open to talks provided they were “serious and constructive.”

The United States said China had made a big mistake in pushing through national security legislation on Hong Kong and would announce something “very interesting” in the next couple of days.

Argentina is still a part of Mercosur but that its objections to new trade agreements remain.

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