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The Blacklisting of Huawei Might Be China’s Sputnik Moment

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The Blacklisting of Huawei Might Be China’s Sputnik Moment

Many of us have been waiting for a new Sputnik moment, the point at which the challenge from China spurs the United States to get its act together. We may now be witnessing such a watershed, but in Beijing. The Trump administration’s decision to blacklist Huawei — the world’s seventh-largest technology company — might well be China’s Sputnik moment, with seismic consequences.

The administration has provided some temporary exemptions to the blacklist, but it seems that Huawei will lose key hardware (ARM’s chip design) and software (from Google) that it relies on for its cellphones and associated technology. This move can be interpreted only as an attempt by the Trump administration to kill the company, already the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones.

The Chinese will see this as a turning point. If Washington can cut China off from American technology at will, China will be determined to build its own technological infrastructure, top to bottom. Huawei, anticipating this moment, has been developing its own operating system, which doesn’t rely on U.S. companies, and says it could be in place by year’s end. (Losing ARM would actually be a much more crippling loss for the Chinese company, making it extremely difficult for Huawei to produce its own chips.) Watching China’s technological prowess these days, it is easy to imagine the country rising to this challenge.

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