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Wednesday, 06 May 2020 11:47

Will Huawei talkshops clear the air or has the horse already bolted? Featured

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Will Huawei talkshops clear the air or has the horse already bolted? Pixabay

Back in February, when Huawei Australia said it would hold public forums across the country to "let ordinary Australians make up their own minds about the company" there was little indication that these would be reduced to Zoom meetings – and with no coffee in sight!

After sitting in on one of the Let's Talk Huawei sessions on Wednesday, one wonders whether the company will really gain from a roundtable that goes over a very well-worn path, with journalists — most of whom have made up their minds on the issues — in attendance.

One of the better journalists in this country, Mark Davis, now part of the law firm Xenophon-Davis, with former pollie Nick Xenophon, was there to chew the fat along with Jeremy Mitchell (who looks much older than his voice leads one to think!), the company's Corporate and Public Affairs director. The Davis-Xenophon duo have been hired to nuke any misinformation being spread about the company.

Despite the enormous number of words that have been written about a previously little-known Chinese company — which, by now, is probably the best-known on the globe — there were some aspects of the discussion worth a mention.

One was that despite the numerous overtures by Huawei to the Australian Government, offering every means to provide technical data so that any decision taken on the company's 5G participation would be based on knowledge, the government just refused to engage.

Mitchell pointed out that even in the case of the US, the leader of the anti-Huawei brigade, this kind of unwillingness had not been seen. His argument was basically, if you ban us, that's okay, but just tell us why. Canada, New Zealand, and the UK had all engaged to varying degrees, he added.

Davis, who confessed his ignorance when it came to technology, pointed out that the blacklisting of the company appeared to be just because of its origins. (That's something iTWire mentioned many moons ago).

The former host of Dateline, who was a thorn in the flesh of politicians from both sides of the aisle during his reporting days, said using ideology to thrown mud at a company was a somewhat dangerous act in which to indulge. It would lead to other companies re-evaluating any planned investment in Australia as one did not want to be judged by one's country of origin, but rather by the quality/security of one's products.

Mitchell made mention of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a lobby group for big defence companies which styles itself as a non-partisan independent think-tank, an organisation that iTWire has called out many a time for the insidious propaganda it is allowed to spread.

He was somewhat critical of the mainstream media for giving ASPI a free pass. Both Xenophon and Davis pointed out that with the massive reduction in the number of journalists, most of the remaining ones were under tremendous stress and had little time to check things before publishing.

Towards the end of the discussion, Davis sounded a word of warning: the anti-Huawei rants had been born out of the American trade campaign against China and both the US and China, massive powers compared to Australia, could well end up sorting out their differences and making compromises which would leave Canberra in the lurch.

Given that most of the tirades against China by US President Donald Trump are obviously driven by the man's desire not to lose re-election on 3 November, Davis seems to have a point there.

The one thing that intrigued me most about the discussion was Mitchell's choice of books to display prominently behind him: one was Sun Tzu's The Art of War and the other was a tome by Henry Kissinger on China.

To quote Wikipedia: "The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, and lifestyles. Kissinger is well known for the role he played in Sino-American relations during the Nixon administration and, in particular, the 1972 Nixon visit to China."

Was some kind of message being conveyed by this choice of books?


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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