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China trumps with 5G

Jun 09,2019 - Last updated at Jun 09,2019

Like most Jordanians of my generation, I first met east Asian people at university in Britain. It was remarkable that engineering courses attracted more students from east Asia than Britain and that east Asian students were particularly focused and gifted in mathematics.

The result is evident today. The world’s industries have largely moved to east Asia. This article does not forecast the demise of the West, and it certainly does not relish the thought, but it acknowledges the deindustrialisation of the US and the UK, for instance, in favour of east Asian countries.

South Korea was among the top winners. At the end of the Korean War (1953), it was one of the poorest countries in the world, with almost no natural resources and an overpopulation problem. Its rigorous education system fuelled the country’s technology boom and export-oriented economy to the point where, in 2014, it was the 7th highest exporter and importer in the world.

But the real bombshell was China taking the lead in 5G technology. To put this in perspective, telecom experts say that 5G marks the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

5G is the next generation of mobile broadband. It can support approximately 1,000 more devices per metre than 4G, with exponentially faster download and upload speeds. It will enable companies to make advances in many areas such as medical technology, retail experiences, robotics, education, healthcare and entertainment.

Several countries competed to take the lead in 5G, notably the US, Japan and South Korea, in addition to China. China, which already leads the world in the mobile market sector, is expected to represent 40 per cent of global 5G connections by 2025.

Studies by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology anticipate that 5G may account for 3.2 per cent of China’s entire GDP in 2025, generate 8 million jobs and add 2.9 trillion yuan ($420 billion) in economic value by 2030.

With these figures at stake, competition became fierce and a trade war started. For months, US officials warned that Huawei, the Chinese technology company’s smartphones and networking gear are Trojan horses for Chinese spies, an accusation that Huawei denied.

Most of the world was unconcerned by the warning. In the third world, we take being spied on as a fact of life. Most people believe that US technology provides the same service for US intelligence services. So what if a new member joins the eavesdropping club?

In fact, many Arabs rejoiced at the news a few days ago, that Huawei signed a deal with Russian telecoms company MTS to develop a 5G network in the country over the next year.

The reason, rightly or wrongly, is that many in the Arab world view positively the prospect of a second and third superpower to act as counterbalance to the US. The Arab outlook is that bipolarity would afford Arabs some protection against the overwhelming devastation that one superpower can unleash when it is unconstrained by rules, alliances or even common sense, as in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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