Have you ever got into dinner table arguments on politics and politicians? As much as these socio-political happenings effect and shape the world as we know it, do we really understand them?
Opinion is often touted to be facts while facts evade some of the most literate people I know. Secondly, aren’t facts juxtaposed to the narrative, anyway? Let’s use the arrest and extradition of CFO Meng Wanzhou, of Huawei as a case study. It is ultimate political theatre!
Huawei breached the 100-billion-dollar mark in revenue earned in 2018, confirming its status as a telecom giant. But its growth has been threatened by sanctions placed on it by western countries, on the grounds of international policy violations and security threats. Countries like the US, Australia, and New Zealand have banned the use of Chinese technology to build 5G infrastructure. What’s more, other countries are being asked to follow suit.
The arrest of Wanzhou, who happens to also be the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, and the sanctions, are against the backdrop of a trade war between the US and China. In fact, the arrest materialized on the same day as diplomatic talks between Chinese president Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The arrest was made, as per reports, due to Meng’s involvement in bypassing US sanctions on Iran, to supply the supposed rogue nation telecom infrastructure.
Huawei’s growth does not happen in isolation. The more it grows, the more it challenges western telecoms for global markets. This is very much a geopolitical problem as much as it is painted a security concern. In the ’90s China opened its doors to western companies like Microsoft and Intel but forced them to work in conjunction with local R&D centers. China first played catch-up and then take-over.
Painting Chinese companies as violators of foreign policy and as security threats, gives the US and other western governments the political capital needed to ban Chinese products within their markets. Is Meng’s arrest, a political facade? Is it a part of a greater western narrative? Only time will tell.
But for everyday people who have limited access to information, these events happen in isolation to their greater geopolitical contexts. At the end of the day, we are just an audience in theatre. Its script and its actors are not in our layman hands.
Painting by Francis Hamel