America’s Chinese Tech Ban Didn’t Stick | Big Indy News
Connect with us


America’s Chinese Tech Ban Didn’t Stick



In 2019, the White House declared that phone and internet equipment from Chinese technology companies should be ripped from every corner of the U.S. because it posed an unacceptable risk of snooping or sabotage by the Chinese government.

More than three years later, most of that equipment remains.

Today I’m going to look at how the U.S. has handled the equipment from two Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE. I’ll explore what this can tell us about America’s ability to effectively deal with concerns about other Chinese technology, such as apps like TikTok, and its efforts to become more self-sufficient in computer chip manufacturing and design.

Technology will no longer be an American near-monopoly, as it has been for the past half-century, and the U.S. needs to figure out and execute plans to help it benefit from global technology developments while preserving America’s safety and innovation. But the story of Chinese equipment shows we have a long way to go.

Some U.S. officials believe that the continued use of gear from Huawei and ZTE is a grave threat to America’s national security. Other policy experts that I’ve spoken to say that it presents a negligible risk and that it might not be worth trying to remove all the equipment right away.

What’s clear is that the U.S. said the Chinese technology ban was urgent and then failed to make it stick.

Removing Huawei and ZTE equipment, which is used mostly in rural areas of the U.S., was never going to be simple, and pandemic-related complications made things worse. But critics of the U.S. approach also said that the way officials handled it hurt American businesses and consumers without making the country much safer.

Let me backtrack to how this all started. For about a decade, U.S. officials said repeatedly that phone and internet equipment from Huawei and ZTE could be used as gateways for Chinese government spying or to disrupt essential U.S. communications. Those warnings persuaded the largest U.S. phone and internet companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, to stay away from buying such equipment.

Nearly everyone in the U.S. government and business community who works on this issue says that was the right thing to do. (There is less consensus on the wisdom of restrictions on Huawei smartphones.) Huawei and ZTE have consistently said that those security concerns were unfounded and that the U.S. government has never provided public proof of its allegations.

Smaller companies, mostly in rural areas, weren’t as strongly discouraged from buying Huawei and ZTE equipment. A sizable minority of them continued to buy items from the companies, such as devices similar to home internet modems and gear to bounce mobile signals around.

The U.S. government declared that was too much of a risk. Starting in 2019, the U.S. effectively ordered all companies with Huawei and ZTE gear to replace all of it. The government promised taxpayer money to help pay for comparable equipment from U.S. or European companies.

The Federal Communications Commission once estimated the cost of replacing Chinese gear to be about $2 billion. An updated estimate disclosed last month showed it was about $5 billion. It will take time for the F.C.C. and Congress to figure out how to pay the amounts small telecom companies say they need. In the meantime, many such providers haven’t even started replacing Huawei and ZTE equipment, as Politico reported last month.

There is plenty of finger-pointing over how this happened. Congress imposed a mandate on small companies, and then didn’t follow through with the money. U.S. officials waffled on which types of Huawei and ZTE equipment should be replaced. The delay and muddled official messages slowed down the process.

Naomi Wilson, an Asia policy specialist at ITI, a trade group of U.S. tech and telecommunications companies, told me that the first estimates for replacing the equipment were best guesses that proved far too low. Inflation, supply-chain problems and a trade war between the U.S. and China increased the price.

One big question is whether this drama could have been avoided. I asked Paul Triolo, senior vice president for China at Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategy firm, if the U.S. had a good plan with wobbly execution or if the strategy was misguided to begin with. He said it was a little of both.

Triolo said that the U.S. government could have phased out Huawei and ZTE equipment over many years — similar to Britain’s approach — and fast-tracked removal of some types of Chinese gear or equipment near sensitive locations such as near military facilities. While the U.S. said that it needed to remove the risk of the equipment quickly, all that stuff remains in place anyway, he said.

Triolo and some other China policy experts that I’ve spoken to are concerned that America’s approaches to Chinese tech aren’t always effective or focused on the right things.

The U.S. is also concerned about the potential for TikTok or other apps originating from Chinese companies to siphon sensitive data on Americans or spread Chinese government propaganda. Policymakers haven’t figured out yet how to address those concerns or made much progress on the relentless Chinese cyberattacks on American government agencies and companies.

Officials don’t always have coherent messages about building a homegrown computer chip industry to counter China. And if the U.S. wants to keep American technology strong, it could do more to support the immigration of tech experts or repeal Chinese tariffs that hurt Americans.

The U.S. could, in theory, do it all. Officials could wall off the country from potential foreign dangers and devote the time, money and smarts necessary to support the best policies for American innovation. Instead, we have bits and parts that don’t yet add up to much.

Read past On Tech newsletters on how the U.S. is responding to Chinese technology:

  • Taiwan churns out the most important electronic devices on Earth: My colleagues Paul Mozur and Raymond Zhong explained why advanced computer chips were part of the backdrop to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s contentious visit to Taiwan this week.

  • There is no simple blueprint to internet fame and riches: How-to courses suggest people can become famous online by paying freelancers to churn out YouTube videos with similar ingredients, such as an unseen narrator, a catchy headline or a Top 10 list about celebrities. My colleague Nico Grant reported that this can’t-lose proposition definitely can lose.

  • She makes a living roasting dudes online. Drew Afualo makes some of the most popular videos of TikTok by verbally trashing people for their displays of racism, fatphobia and misogyny, Bloomberg News reported. (A subscription may be required.)

Check out these charismatic golden lion tamarins at the National Zoo in Washington. They love fake plants!

Read the full article here


Mickey 17, the next film from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, is out in 2024



You’ll have to wait a bit to see Parasite director Bong Joon-ho’s next project. The sci-fi film, called Mickey 17, will hit theaters on March 29th, 2024. The news was revealed via the briefest of teaser trailers, which shows star Robert Pattinson hanging around shirtless in some kind of tube.

The film is based on the novel Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton, which is about a “disposable employee” out on a quest to colonize an icy new world for human habitation (no word yet on where all the extra Mickeys came from). In addition to Pattinson, the film stars Steven Yeun (Nope, Okja), Naomi Ackie (The Rise of Skywalker), Toni Collette (Knives Out), and Mark Ruffalo (everything with the incredible Hulk in it). Outside of the cast, Joon-ho is also working with some notable names behind the camera on this one, including production designer Fiona Crombie (Cruella), costume designer Catherine George (Okja, Snowpiercer), and Dan Glass, a visual effects supervisor known for his work on the Matrix movies.

It’ll likely be a while before we see a proper trailer for Mickey 17, though, as Warner Bros. says the film is currently in production.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading


In Phoenix, a Taiwanese Chip Giant Builds a Hedge Against China



Intel, which hopes to introduce its own new production processes over the next two years, took issue with TSMC’s suggestions that its technology in Arizona will be the most advanced in the United States in 2024. “I would disagree with that point of view,” said Ann Kelleher, the executive vice president who heads Intel’s manufacturing technology development.

State and local officials in Arizona have already agreed to offer financial incentives for the first phase of TSMC’s construction, and the company is expected to apply for federal grants for both phases under the CHIPS Act.

Mr. Chatterji, the White House adviser, estimated that the two new TSMC factories in Arizona, once operating at full capacity, could by themselves fulfill U.S. demands for such advanced chips. But Handel Jones, an analyst who heads International Business Strategies, said TSMC’s factories in Taiwan would still be needed, both because of their production capacity and because they will be making more advanced technology by 2026.

TSMC operates four factories in Taiwan that each can process up to 100,000 semiconductor wafers each month. In Arizona, TSMC initially said the first factory could process 20,000 wafers a month. It now estimates that the two factories’ combined output will be 50,000 a month, or 600,000 a year.

But even relatively small operations in the United States can become important, industry executives said, particularly for individual customers like Apple or for the production of particularly crucial chips in emergencies.

By adding more advanced production technology in the United States, TSMC “would help address vulnerabilities associated with the shortage of semiconductors evident over the past few years,” said Bob LeFort, president of the U.S. arm of Infineon, a big German chip maker.

TSMC’s move is also a sign that the CHIPS Act is having an impact on the plans of big companies, helping to not only spur their spending but galvanize investments by companies that supply them with production tools and materials.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading


Elon Musk’s Neuralink is reportedly facing a federal probe on animal welfare grounds



Neuralink, the brain implant company founded by Elon Musk, is reportedly facing a federal probe over the treatment of animals used in its experiments. Reuters reports that a probe was recently opened by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspector general and focuses on potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act. A spokesperson for the USDA inspector general declined to comment to Reuters on its report.

Although Reuters says it’s unclear how wide-ranging the probe is, the news agency details a range of concerns over animal welfare raised in interviews with more than 20 current and former Neuralink employees. These include reports that, in one experiment, 25 out of 60 pigs allegedly had the wrong size of device installed as part of a study, while on another occasion, two separate pigs had devices installed on the wrong vertebra, leading to one needing to be euthanized to end its suffering. 

Staffers are reportedly pushed to meet ambitious deadlines

Neuralink’s aim is to develop ways for the human brain to interface directly with computers to help treat a range of neurological conditions and even help paralyzed people walk. So far, the company has made a number of public demonstrations of its technology being used by animals, including showing a monkey playing Pong with its brain and another typing on a computer using an implant.

It is common for animals used in scientific tests to be killed after experiments are completed so that their autopsies can provide further data. But current and former Neuralink employees interviewed by Reuters said that testing mistakes can lead to excess deaths by requiring tests to be repeated. They can also make the resulting data less accurate. Reuters reports that Neuralink has killed around 1,500 animals since 2018.

None of this is firm evidence of wrongdoing (and Reuters notes that Neuralink has passed all USDA inspections), but employees have reportedly raised concerns internally that Musk’s drive for quick progress has created an environment filled with what Reuters calls “under-prepared and over-stressed staffers scrambling to meet deadlines.” Musk’s attempts to motivate employees to work faster reportedly include telling staff to imagine they have a bomb strapped to their heads. Reuters says the CEO also wrote in an email in February this year, “In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!”

Publicly, Musk has been bullish about the potential for Neuralink to start human trials in the near future. At a recent event, the Tesla and now Twitter CEO said that he hoped to install the device in a human’s head within the next six months. Musk previously said he hoped to start human trials in 2020 and then in 2022.

Neuralink has faced criticism for its treatment of animals before. Earlier this year, a nonprofit called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which is against the use of animals in medical experiments, alleged that, in a study funded by Neuralink, scientists at the University of California, Davis treated monkeys involved in one of its experiments inhumanely. Neuralink responded to the allegations, saying that “the facilities and care at UC Davis did and continue to meet federally mandated standards.” 

Neuralink did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment. Reuters’ report is well worth reading in its entirety. 

Read the full article here

Continue Reading


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news directly to your inbox.