FlyTitle: America v China

Open standards, not sanctions, are America’s best weapon against China’s telecoms giant

开放的标准,而非制裁,才是美国对付中国通信巨头的最佳武器

经济学人双语版-华为和5G地缘政治 Huawei and 5Geopolitics

TECHNOLOGY IS POWER. Whoever controls the global digital infrastructure controls the world. That is why America is so worried about China’s rise as a technological superpower. It also explains why it is going to such lengths, even using European-style industrial policy, to rein in Huawei, China’s leading maker of telecoms equipment. The company leads the world in 5G, the next generation of mobile networks, which are expected to become the central nervous system of the global economy.

科技就是力量。谁控制了全球数字基础设施,谁就控制了世界。这就是美国如此担心中国崛起为科技超级大国的原因。这也解释了美国何以要竭尽全力遏制中国的通信设备制造巨头华为,甚至为此采取欧洲式的产业政策。华为在5G上领先于世界,而这个下一代移动网络预期会成为全球经济的中枢神经系统。

Yet by any measure America is losing the fight against Huawei, along with what President Donald Trump, steeped in zero-sum thinking, calls the “race to 5G”. The Chinese firm keeps on growing; the rollout of 5G in China continues apace; and most of America’s allies have so far ignored its entreaties to ban Huawei gear entirely from their national 5G networks on security grounds. Even so, the Trump administration seems intent on doubling down on its strategy. If hawks have their way, any chipmaker that uses American technology, which nearly all do, will soon have to ask for permission in Washington, DC, to sell its wares to Huawei.

然而无论怎么看,美国都在输掉与华为的争战,以及沉浸在零和思维里的特朗普所称的“5G竞赛”。这家中国公司不断发展壮大;5G继续在中国快速推广;美国以安全为由要求盟国在本国的5G网络中完全禁用华为的设备,但迄今为止大多数盟国都无视这一请求。即便如此,特朗普政府似乎仍打算加强这项战略。如果鹰派得偿所愿,那么任何使用美国技术的芯片制造商,也就是几乎所有的芯片制造商,很快都将不得不征求华盛顿特区的许可才能把产品卖给华为。

The problem with America’s strategy is that it is trying to win today’s “tech cold war”, as some call it, with yesterday’s arsenal. In effect it is trying to build an impenetrable wall around Huawei by any means necessary. This is a fool’s errand in a hyper-connected world in which technology and talent can flow freely. It only provides extra incentives for Huawei—and China—to become technologically self-sufficient. If America wants to win the race to 5G and, more generally, the battle for digital supremacy, it needs a new approach. Happily, the country’s own technology industry points the way: it has thrived on openness, software and a healthy balance of competition and co-operation. And that approach is at last now being applied in telecoms.

美国战略的问题在于,它试图用昨天的武器库来赢下今天的“科技冷战”(一些人的称法)。实际上,它正尝试用尽一切必须手段在华为周围竖起一道无法穿透的墙。在一个技术和人才可以自由流动的高度连接的世界里,这只会徒劳无功。它只会进一步刺激华为,以及中国,让它们追求技术上自给自足。如果美国想赢得5G竞赛以及更广泛的数字霸权之战,就需要一种新的方式。所幸,美国自己的科技产业指明了道路:它依靠开放、软件,以及竞争与合作之间的健康的平衡而蓬勃发展。而这种方式现在终于用到了通信上。

Mobile networks, long dominated by specialised hardware, are becoming defined by software. On April 8th Rakuten, a Japanese online giant, launched the world’s first fully “virtualised” mobile network, built using general-purpose hardware and lots of software. Other mobile carriers will follow suit. Such networks would go a long way towards dealing with America’s concern about Huawei: that using the firm’s gear in 5G networks could let the Chinese government intercept data or sabotage rival economies.

长期以来由专用硬件主导的移动网络正转向由软件来定义。4月8日,日本网络巨头乐天(Rakuten)推出了世界上第一个完全“虚拟化”的移动网络,用通用硬件和大量软件建成。其他移动运营商也将效仿。这样的网络能大大解除美国对华为的担忧——它担心在5G网络中使用华为的设备可能会让中国政府拦截数据或破坏竞争对手的经济。

Virtualised networks need not rely on one vendor, but can be built with components from many, allowing carriers to pick and choose—and, if necessary, to steer clear of those made in China. They also create an opening for American tech firms, which play only a small role in the mobile-telecoms networks of today. (Many of the components of Rakuten’s network are made in America.) Moreover, such networks are cheaper to develop, make and maintain than conventional ones, because they are made mostly from off-the-shelf hardware, controlled by software—doing away with the argument of many mobile operators, that banning Huawei would force them to buy more expensive kit from Ericsson and Nokia, its main competitors.

虚拟网络不需要依赖单个供应商,而是可以用许多供应商的组件构建,让运营商可以挑挑拣拣,必要时还可避开中国制造的组件。虚拟网络也为美国科技公司创造了机会,这些公司在目前的移动通信网络中仅扮演很小的角色。(乐天网络的许多组件是美国制造的。)此外,这类网络开发、建造和维护的成本比传统网络更低,因为它们主要由软件控制的现成硬件构成,这也使得许多移动运营商担忧的理由不复存在,即封杀华为会迫使它们从华为的主要竞争对手爱立信和诺基亚那里购买更昂贵的设备。

Admittedly, virtualised networks will not solve all security problems, and the underlying standard, called OpenRAN, is not yet mature. But it is early days for all 5G networks. It will take years to roll them out fully and the covid-19 crisis has done nothing to speed up the process. So there is time.

诚然,虚拟化网络无法解决所有安全问题,而且名为OpenRAN的基础标准尚未成熟。但所有5G网络都还处于发展初期。要完全部署它们要花好几年,新冠肺炎更是让这个过程快不起来。所以还有时间。

The Trump administration and other governments should do all they can to accelerate the development of virtualised networks by subsidising research and perhaps even mandating the use of technical standards that allow mobile networks to be virtualised. All this may sound far-fetched at a time when America’s government appears stuck in the past and incapable of coming up with a coherent strategy. But as in many other domains, covid-19 creates room for new thinking. America will either pursue a tech cold war with an uncertain outcome, or help create an industry of the kind that American tech firms understand and have thrived in—letting Chinese companies join in only if they follow the rules. Sometimes establishing a robust, safe technology is not about concentrating power so much as diffusing it. ■

特朗普政府和其他国家政府应尽一切努力,通过补贴研究,甚至强制使用允许移动网络虚拟化的技术标准,来加速虚拟化网络的发展。在美国政府似乎沉湎于过去而无法提出连贯一致的战略的当下,这听起来似乎不切实际。但和其他许多领域一样,新冠肺炎创造了探索新思路的空间。美国要么打一场结果不确定的科技冷战,要么得帮助建立一个美国科技公司理解且已在其中蓬勃发展的行业——中国公司只有遵守规则才能加入。有时候创立强健、安全的技术需要的不是集中力量,而是分散力量。