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Hal Brands

On Huawei, All Trump Has to Lose Is America’s Credibility

Trump’s gamble will pay off only if allies back the U.S. hard line -- and if he doesn't back down.

This is gonna need updating.

This is gonna need updating.

Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

When the history of the unfolding rivalry between America and China is written, the events of the past week will probably figure prominently. On May 15, the Commerce Department effectively banned U.S. companies from providing technology and components to Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications behemoth, and blocked the use of Huawei telecommunications equipment domestically.

The initial justification was that Huawei evaded U.S. sanctions on Iran. But make no mistake: There is a bigger strategic move underway. It marks the culmination of a remarkable shift in U.S. thinking about how to handle the dilemmas of interdependence with a rising challenger, and represents a gamble that Washington can use its superior power to head off some of the most dangerous aspects of Beijing’s economic ascendancy before it’s too late. Not least, Trump’s gambit underscores some of the persistent risks and downsides in his approach to China.