Trump Wants to Wall Off Huawei, but the Digital World Bridles at Barriers

The country is already four years into the Made in China 2025 movement, a government policy to make domestic manufacturers dominant in critical high-technology fields like semiconductor manufacturing, 5G technology, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. (China consumes 60 percent of the world’s supply of semiconductors but makes only 13 percent, a recent Council on Foreign Relations report notes.)

Made in China 2025 was based in part on a fear that this day would come — that the United States, feeling vulnerable, would threaten to cut off Chinese competitors.

Mr. Ren, in an interview with Chinese reporters last week, made clear that he had begun stockpiling key components, and accelerated the process after his daughter was arrested in December in Canada on American charges that Huawei had violated sanctions on Iran.

“We have prepared,” he said, adding, “What the U.S. will do to us is out of our control.” But he made the case that any disruptions to Huawei would be temporary.

“Even if there is an insufficient supply from our partners, we will face no problems,” Mr. Ren said. “This is because we can manufacture all the high-end chips we need ourselves. In the ‘peaceful period,’ we adopted a ‘1 plus 1’ policy: Half of our chips come from U.S. companies and half from Huawei.”

Some of that may be bluster. But Mr. Ren’s larger point is correct, many who study the issue say.

“We’re not thinking about the way that this will boomerang when we are dealing with a China that is much more self-reliant, much larger and much less dependent on the U.S.,” said Ali Wyne, a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. “We need to be careful what we wish for.”

That is exactly the fear of the Europeans, especially middle-size nations that value their trading relationships with Beijing as much as they value their military alliances with the United States. Increasingly doubtful that America would go to their aid in times of crisis, they are keeping a foot in both camps. And even NATO allies, like Italy and Poland, doubt the United States would carry out its threat to cut them off.

“What they are saying to Washington,” Mr. Wyne said, is “no, thank you, we won’t make a choice.”

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