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Letter from the Editors
While the US-China trade war has dominated headlines and centered economic debate on US President Donald Trump’s hardline trade policies, another dispute heralds a much longer-term sign of rivalry: the use of technology from Chinese telecom giant Huawei in the global rollout of 5G mobile networks. The US has banned its use and is pressing its allies and other countries not to expose themselves to what it sees as the cybersecurity risks of Chinese high-tech hardware and software. It has also taken a tougher stance on the export to China of US technologies vital to Beijing’s ambitions to dominate key emerging technologies by 2025. The battle over Huawei is, in short, the opening salvo in a struggle between Washington and Beijing over who will sit astride the technologies of the future.
Asian countries are being drawn into that battle. Australia was the first to identify Huawei’s 5G security risks, but Asian nations are by no means eager to line up with Trump against it. The world’s largest telecom equipment provider is already deeply involved in the region’s economies providing 3G and 4G networks. Nations such as Japan, a key US ally, have predictably sided with Washington, without explicitly saying so, while South Korea is struggling with the issue, as is India. New Delhi recognizes the risk of dependency on Chinese technology, yet it is seeking the best technology at a price its consumers can afford — something Huawei can deliver. No part of Asia is more ambivalent about being caught up in US-China rivalry over Huawei than Southeast Asia, where resentment at Washington’s heavy-handed approach is evident, alongside wariness of growing Chinese influence.
Our cover package examines the issue at large and the stances being taken by Asian countries. As this issue was going to press, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and chief executive, said in a rare interview with The Economist that the company was prepared to license its 5G technology to a Western company for a one-time fee — an extraordinary revelation. It remains to be seen in the months ahead how serious that offer is and whether it has any takers.
Elsewhere in this issue, our Debate section focuses on whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to revoke the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir represents a new beginning in a long-festering dispute with Pakistan or is a grave mistake that could destabilize South Asia.
In our Features section, we look at what’s behind the raging street protests in Hong Kong calling for greater democracy; why South Korea’s income-led growth policies are proving such a disaster; whether Southeast Asia could become a new battleground against ISIS; and what ASEAN has accomplished in its 52-year history and where its future may lie. We also include a statement by the chairman of the seventh Hiroshima Round Table held on Aug. 21-22.
Korea and Japan over the historical issue of reparations to forced laborers during the Japanese occupation. The tit-for-tat measures being taken against each other by these two key US allies could have destabilizing impacts on Northeast Asia.
As always, our Book Review section provides some of the best in recent literature on the region.
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