In his new book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith called USA’s treatment of Chinese company Huawei “un-American.”
Huawei was placed on the Entity’s List by the Commerce Department in May this year, which meant that the company was not able to purchase products and services from American companies, including software from Microsoft and Google, due to vague accusations that the company was a Chinese espionage risk.
Smith noted that the Trump government declined to make a case to back their accusations.
Such actions shouldn’t be taken without a “sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law,” Smith noted and said when Microsoft asked for evidence they often received unhelpful responses.
“Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us,’” he said, “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’”
Smith noted that the ban threatened to damage Huawei fatally.
“To tell a tech company that it can sell products, but not buy an operating system or chips, is like telling a hotel company that it can open its doors, but not put beds in its hotel rooms or food in its restaurant. Either way, you put the survival of that company at risk.”
Of course, the objection is also self-serving – Huawei is not able to buy the Windows operating system, and similarly Microsoft is not able to sell it to them either, leading to a loss for both parties.
There is however a wider issue of the ban causing a fracturing of world trade, such as world-wide operating systems such as Android and Windows would no longer be possible.
“You can’t be a global technology leader if you can’t bring your technology to the globe,” he says. Making a case for globalism, he noted: “The only way you can manage technology that’s global is to have governments actually work with each other.”
Smith called or more precise implementation of bans, suggesting, for example, banning specific universities tied to the Chinese government from using Microsoft AI tools, rather than the whole country, calling the approach a scalpel vs a meat cleaver.
He also pushed for a coalition of democracies to agree on worldwide data standards for privacy and data collection and to press China to sign up to the same.
Smith’s book is on sale at Amazon here.