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Noah Smith

Huawei Reveals the Real Trade War With China

If the U.S. loses its lead in furniture making, big deal. The same can't be said of high tech.

The much bigger threat to U.S. economic primacy.

The much bigger threat to U.S. economic primacy.

Photographer: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

If you only scan the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that the U.S.-China trade war is mainly about tariffs. After all, the president and trade-warrior-in-chief has called himself “Tariff Man.” And the tentative trade deal between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping was mainly about tariffs, especially on items like automobiles.

But the startling arrest in Canada of a Chinese telecom company executive should wake people up to the fact that there’s a second U.S.-China trade war going on — a much more stealthy conflict, fought with weapons much subtler and more devastating than tariffs. And the prize in that other struggle is domination of the information-technology industry.