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Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

European countries are caught in the middle of dueling pressure campaigns from the U.S. and China over whether to let equipment made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei into their 5G networks.

Why it matters: It's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" choice that could leave Europe alienating a major trading partner either way.

Driving the news:

  • Germany is equivocating, with China threatening to close off a key market for German auto exports if the country blocks out Huawei, while the U.S. is exerting pressure of its own. A German decision is expected soon, but for now, Germany and others in Europe are offering highly ambiguous statements.
  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would prevent U.S. intelligence-sharing with any country that uses Huawei gear to help build its 5G network.
  • Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei spoke in Davos on Tuesday, aiming to downplay the threat his company poses and, at the same time, insist that the company is fully prepared to withstand any further U.S. "attacks" on its business.
  • The company is already largely prohibited from doing new business in the U.S. and faces severe limits on using U.S. components and services.

Background: Huawei is in the spotlight for a variety of reasons.

  • First, security insiders and industry experts are concerned that Huawei equipment might be compromised by the Chinese government.
  • Second, Huawei has become a flashpoint in the broader U.S.-China trade talks, as both sides seek a favorable deal.
  • Huawei executives have urged the U.S. not to conflate the two issues and to mitigate any security risks through a set of rules.

What they're saying: Even as it's been drawn into broader political battles, Huawei has made considerable technical progress, according to one tech executive.

  • Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said at a Davos panel this week that his company had tested gear from all the 5G equipment vendors and found Huawei had a technological edge: "Whether we like it or not, they are a year or two ahead."
  • That's a bold finding. Historically, Huawei's strength has been offering telecom gear at a lower cost than comparable rivals.
  • But Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden in an interview with Axios touted his own company as far ahead of the competition when it comes to pure 5G technology.

Yes, but: Ekudden said that, regardless of who's winning the tech race on 5G, uncertainty over the rules of the 5G road has harmed business.

  • "One thing people may not realize is that, in some cases, the geopolitics are just slowing down 5G development as a whole, unfortunately," he said.

The big picture: U.S.-China tensions and the emergence of 5G have been key topics at this week's World Economic Forum. Both issues affect nearly every country and company.

Meanwhile: A key court hearing is taking place this week in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking to have Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou (the daughter of CEO Zhengfei) extradited to face charges.

Go deeper ... Axios special report: The next tech wave rides on 5G

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - Sports

IOC: Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe"

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus in 2019. Photo: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Belarus' Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought refuge in Tokyo, is in the care of Japanese authorities and the UN refugee agency is now involved in her case, an International Olympic Committee official told reporters Monday.

Driving the news: The sprinter said she wouldn't obey orders and board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's s Haneda airport by team officials Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters. She spent the night in an airport hotel.

Updated 44 mins ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Team Italy crosses the finish line ahead of American Fred Kerley in the men's 100m final on day nine of the Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

🚨: IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

🏃🏾: Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win" Olympic 100m sprint race.

🥇High jumpers persuade Olympic officials to let them share gold

🏌️‍♂️: Golfer Xander Schauffele wins gold for U.S. by one shot

🤸🏿‍♀️: Simone Biles won't compete in Olympic floor finals, individual vault or uneven bars

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 56 mins ago - Sports

IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

Team USA's Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing in the women's shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee is "looking into" U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders' gesture on the Tokyo Games podium after she won a silver medal, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told reporters Monday.

Why it matters: Saunders told AP she placed her hands above her head in an "X" formation while on the podium to stand up for "oppressed" people. The IOC has banned protests during the Tokyo Games.