Jan 21, 2020

Huawei CEO at Davos: We're better prepared for U.S. attacks

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei. Screenshot by Axios

Huawei chief Ren Zhengfei said Tuesday that his company is prepared for any further U.S. "attacks," but he believes the world can avoid splitting into two separate technology systems.

Why it matters: The U.S. and China are locked in a fierce battle, with trade restrictions already limiting Huawei's ability to sell phones around the world.

  • "We are more confident we can survive even further attacks," Ren said, appearing at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The backdrop: Last year, the U.S. imposed a variety of restrictions that further limited Huawei's ability to do business in the U.S. as well as hampering its ability globally by limiting access to U.S. chips and software. It is also pressuring allies not to use Huawei's networking technology for their 5G systems.

  • Ren expressed optimism the tensions won't lead to a complete bifurcation of Western and Chinese technology. "Whether world will be split in two systems, I don’t think so," he said. "Science is about truth; there is only one truth. It is unique."

Meanwhile: Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, who joined the Huawei chief on stage, talked about the existential threat posed when any tech company, be it Huawei or Facebook, can know human desires better than people themselves.

  • Ren replied: "We are not sure if that can become reality. We do not rule out this possibility."

The panel included a lot of harkening back to the Cold War and the race to build the atom bomb.

  • The key difference, Harari noted, is that it was largely clear that using the technology behind the atom bomb was bad. With AI, countries may believe they are best served by actively deploying such systems.
  • Harari also pointed out that the U.S.-China tech Cold War is very close to a real arms race — the development of lethal autonomous weapons. And while both sides likely know the danger, the distrust could prompt such systems to be built.

Yes, but: Harari ended on a hopeful note, pointing out that in theory surveillance technology could be used to keep tabs on big business and government, and antivirus software could in future detect efforts to manipulate your mind.

Go deeper: Why Huawei is the United States' 5G boogeyman

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,929,312 — Total deaths: 357,781 — Total recoveries — 2,385,926Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,709,996 — Total deaths: 101,002 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Business: Louisiana senator says young people are key to reopening the economy —U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter, round two

President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

Go deeper: Twitter vs. Trump... vs. Twitter

40 mins ago - Politics & Policy