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Authoritarian Tech

Android stops selling to Huawei as China-US tech cold war deepens

Last week, after a months-long campaign against Huawei, U.S. President Donald Trump dealt the company its greatest blow yet through an executive order which declared a “national emergency”, and blocked American companies from doing business with foreign technology firms which posing “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States.”

Now, in the first major ramification, Google will stop selling Huawei certain kinds of software.

On Monday, Google announced that future Huawei phones will no longer arrive already installed with Android, the Google-made operating system. This poses a problem for Huawei, which relies on Android to run its smartphones. Major chip manufacturers also said they would stop providing Huawei with hardware.

Later on Monday, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would allow the Chinese company to purchase U.S. goods in order to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets. The company is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products.

In a statement to The Verge, Huawei appeared unconcerned, promising: “We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem.” Huawei has allegedly developed its own operating system that can replace Android.

Trump’s move, and this latest outcome, has further blurred the line between espionage concerns about Huawei and the ongoing US-China trade war.

The fact that American tech can no longer power Huawei devices also raises the specter of the “splinternet,” or the idea that the internet will split into parts based around different technologies and governing philosophies. Former Google executive Eric Schmidt made this prediction back in October: “I think the most likely scenario now is…a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America.”

While a complete split in the internet currently seems unlikely, the fact that China’s biggest mobile phone company can no longer do business with America’s biggest mobile software company further separates the Chinese and American tech sectors.

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