In the past month, China and the United States have been in the middle of a trade war that has escalated into the outright ban of Huawei phones within the United States. This has led to American Companies like Google and Intel to stop providing Huawei, and effectively China, with their technology. You see, this trade war isn’t actually about trading rights per say. It’s actually about being the first country to have 5G technology. But what’s all the fuss about?
5G is generally seen as the fifth generation cellular network technology that provides broadband access. If you look to your phones right now, you know that most of you either have 3G or LTE(4G). With each generations, the cellular network gets faster, much faster. It is reported that 5G is more than 20X faster than LTE services. To compare, with LTE it would take around 6 minutes to download a movie online. With 5G, it would take 3 second. That’s the difference.
This massive difference has brought up possibilities for an innovative future. With 5G, surgeons will be able to perform wireless surgeries, self-driving car are possible, and never having a lag with the internet. But is this the only reason the US and China are waging an economic war for? For no lag?
The truth is that all the benefits I’ve outlined can be achieved no matter who wins the 5G race. So why is it to important for the United States to be first? Well, money of course.
When winning the race to make the first 4G technology, the United States had an estimated $100 billion boost within its GDP. 5G technology is expected to be able to bring in around $500 billion into the economy of whichever country wins the race. The reason this happens is because of an business effect called first movers advantage. If you’re the first company/country to produce a certain product/technology, you’re already ahead of your competition. They’ll be busy playing catch-up with you, while you lead the way. In the market, you will be the best-the one everyone goes too.
However, this isn’t completely accurate. While first movers advantage does benefit businesses and countries, but only for a short time. Let’s look at the last telecommunications race. The United States is reported to have won the race, but their LTE technology is one of the worst in the Western world. Countries like Japan, Iceland and Singapore are leading the way in technological advancement, even if they don’t win it. Winning the 5G race does not guarantee that the United States will be the leaders in technological advancement. So what’s it really about?
How does 5G technology revolve around security? Well, it’s actually a bit confusing, but let’s see if I can make it simple. With the ability to have literal cities just connected to the internet at all times, concerns that security agencies will be able to spy on civilians have been raised by many. For both countries, it’s a race towards gaining surveillance access that is better than everyone else.
The United States for a long time has been vary of the Chinese government, and their link to Huawei. Government officials for a long time have been banned from owning an Huawei phone. And the truth is that the Chinese do overstep when it comes to surveillance. They literally have their own Facebook because they thought it was easier to control opinion. But the United States isn’t doing this out of some humanitarian need. They’re doing this because they are scared of foreign interference, which is pretty ironic given their own history.
The truth is, the race for 5G is not actually about 5G, as I’ve said a lot of times before. This race is about money, security but above and beyond, it’s about power. You see, the United States has been the sole super power since the fall of the USSR. However, in recent years countries like Russia, India, and mostly China, have come out of nowhere to challenge the US’s dominance as a global power. While this may seem ridiculous, the United States does live in a perpetual fear of a regime change in world order that doesn’t place them on the top.
Like the space race before, the 5G race is just about being the first one to achieve this goal. To be the leader in everything, including technology. That’s also why the One Belt One Road Initiative has drawn so much concern from the West, because of its potential to shift economic trade routes to the East. It’s why the United States is playing dirty within this race; the stakes for them is their dominance. Even when you look at the reasoning given by the government to act this way, it all comes down to vague terms that re-emphasis the need to lead. Like Cersei said, “Power is power.” And these two countries will do anything to have it.
Honestly, just sit back and enjoy the show. Unless you were thinking about getting a Huawei phone in the future, just relax. It doesn’t involve us yet, so let’s not get in the middle of a fight that isn’t ours. Plus, no matter who wins, someone is still dominating the world order that isn’t us, unless you’re reading this from the US or China. If so, then good luck! This is going to be one messy fight.