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Xi’s new Long March and Trump’s new cold war

General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 domestic tour to Jiangxi Province continues to feature prominently in Chinese state media coverage. As we noted yesterday, this included a stop at a rare earths processing facility, which telegraphed a threat to the U.S. that China could cut off supplies to the important minerals for technology components.

Today, the SCMP reports on Xi’s tour:

“We are here at the starting point of the Long March to remember the time when the Red Army began its journey,” Xi told cheering crowds on Monday, in footage posted on state broadcaster CCTV’s website on Tuesday. “We are now embarking on a new Long March, and we must start all over again.”

While Xi did not directly mention the trade war or the United States, his remarks are being perceived as clear signals that the Chinese public is being told to prepare for hardships because of the worsening external environment.

Also responding to increasing external hardships, Huawei founder Rén Zhèngfēi 任正非 gave a long interview with Chinese media.

Huawei’s “conflict with the U.S. is inevitable,” Ren said, because of the company’s ambitious global expansion, according to a Washington Post summary.Huawei is “well prepared” for the conflict, though, as it has stockpiled chips and other supplies in haste in recent months, Ren said.Analysts aren’t so sure. Today on SupChina, the Eurasia Group’s Paul Triolo and Douglas Fuller of the City University of Hong Kong write:

Focusing on the actual chips may be a mere sideshow. The tools needed to design chips, called electronic design automation (EDA) tools, are dominated by a small oligopoly of three firms: Cadence, Synopsys, and Siemens’ Mentor Graphics. Without these tools, it is basically impossible to design chips…Cutting off Huawei, its affiliates, and, potentially, others that attempt to supply Huawei with chips from access to these EDA tools would sound a death knell for the company.

Triolo and Douglas also note that the U.S. Commerce Department’s 90-day exemption for the export control rules targeting Huawei (see Wall Street Journal report) are not a reprieve for Huawei, but rather “only a temporary measure, designed to allow suppliers to determine their compliance situation, and carriers to consider whether to change vendors given the threat to Huawei’s future viability as a company.”“We could be moving towards a worst-case scenario for Huawei,” Triolo and Douglas continue, listing the ways in which “the ripple effects of a complete ban on Huawei access to U.S. tech will be huge.”

The apparent attempted shutdown of Huawei by the U.S. government is raising alarm about the trade war quickly morphing into an all-out fight to contain China’s economic rise — i.e., as real a “Cold War 2.0” as the Trump administration can make it.

“The US is seeking to constrain China’s rise,” the Financial Times editorial board simply states, adding that the “ban on companies supplying Huawei is damaging and ill-conceived.”On Google’s compliance with U.S. government pressure to disallow Huawei access to Android updates, the Guardian comments, “The struggle over Huawei isn’t really about technology. It is about whether China or the US is to be master.”Trade talks look to be doomed for the foreseeable future. Bloomberg reports that the Huawei supply chain attacks were “on the table for months,” and had only been delayed because Trump was afraid of upsetting trade talks.

For a complete daily roundup of news and analysis related to the trade war, tech cold war, cold war 2.0, “little squabble with China,” or whatever you want to call it — as well as many other things about China worth reading — subscribe to SupChina Access.

—Lucas Niewenhuis, Associate Editor


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