Meng Wanzhou's arrest and extradition trial
The arrest of Huawei's CFO brings to a head most of the looming tensions between the US and China and has, from time to time, come up as a bargaining chip in the countries' trade war negotiations.
Updated October 7th
We're working on this explainer and will publish updates soon.
Huawei is a leading smartphone maker and the world's largest manufacturer of network equipment.
Its opaque relationship with the Chinese government makes many worry that the company's products -- their phones and, more importantly, the infrastructure that runs mobile and communication networks -- come with built-in backdoors allowing the Chinese government to listen in on private communication abroad.
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The US-China Trade War
When did it begin?
The trade conflict between the United States and China began when President Trump first imposed tariffs on foreign goods last year. Though his first were on solar panels and washing machines in January, 2018, his tariffs on steel and aluminum later that March were the first significant move.
In April, Trump imposed a 25% tariff on 1,300 products from China. China retaliated with tariffs on 128 American products exports, perhaps most famously soy beans.
Both sides have increased tariffs since.
How is the trade war begin fought?
1. Tariffs: To counter their trade deficit and China's alleged IP infringement, the Trump administration began initiating tariffs in 2018. They argue that tariffs, which add to the price of goods coming into the country, will bring the price of Chinese-made products closer to those made in America.
2. Blacklisting companies: To counter China's tech ambitions, the Trump administration has blocked several organizations from purchasing components (like microchips) and lisencing software (like Android) from American companies. By adding them to its Entity List, the U.S. can deprive large organizations of fundamental parts of their tech stack. The organizations include telecommunications companies like Huawei, aeronautical and other advanced science institutes, and supercomputer makers like Sugon. In the summer of 2018, Trump de-banned another telecom company, ZTE, as a gesture of goodwill during negotiations.
3. In one case, arrest: In December, 2018, Huawei's CFO was arrested in Canada at the request of US officials. She remains under house arrest in Canada and may be extradicted to the United States on fraud charges.
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China is a major leader AI investment and development. And with government encouragement, China's giant population produces more AI-usable data than perhaps anywhere else on earth.
Here's how China is unique in artificial intelligence development:
- The country's authoritarian political regime: The Chinese government closely controls the economy. This has allowed the Chinese Communist Party to funnel vast amounts of wealth and tax incentives to companies that develop AI products.
- By investing large sums into AI companies and capping the RoI it receives, the government has given Chinese startups access to capital found nowhere else outside of Silicon Valley.
- China's huge population: The country's massive middle class has largely embraced the conveniences and features that AI models provide, and thereby produce more useful data than any other group on earth. The more data produced, the better the technology gets.
- The country's history of political control has, arguably, created a friendly environment for companies that want to build services that require vast amounts of user data. While the debate over privacy rages in Europe, the controversy is felt far less in China.
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