In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this week, Attorney General William Barr said that the media and much of Washington is oblivious to the single greatest national security threat facing the United States of America: China’s rapid movement towards cornering the 5G internet market, Barr warned, could have unthinkable ramifications for America’s economic and military dominance.
“The stakes for the United States could not be higher. Since the 19th century, the United States has been the world’s leader in innovation and technology,” Barr said. “In the past, prior administrations and many in the private sector have too often been willing to countenance China’s hardball tactics. It has been this administration that has finally moved to confront and counteract China’s playbook.”
The attorney general said that China is using all the dirty tricks in the book in order to stay ahead of the U.S. in the race for 5G dominance. Barr said that intellectual property theft alone – an area the Chinese have exploited for years – is costing the U.S. economy as much as $600 billion every year.
“5G technology lies at the center of the technological and industrial world that is taking shape. In essence, communications networks are not just for communications anymore,” Barr said. “They are evolving into the central nervous system of the next generation of internet, called the ‘Industrial Internet,’ and the next generation of industrial systems that will depend on that infrastructure. China has built up a lead in 5G, capturing 40 percent of the global 5G infrastructure market. For the first time in history, the United States is not leading the next technology era.”
Barr said that the U.S. could not afford to sit idly by and watch China capture so much of the 5G market that catch-up becomes impossible.
“Within the next five years, 5G global territory and application dominance will be determined,” he said. “The question is whether, within this window, the United States and our allies can mount sufficient competition to Huawei to retain and capture enough market share to sustain the kind of long-term and robust competitive position necessary to avoid surrendering dominance to the Chinese.”
Barr’s warning comes on the heels of a report from the Financial Times, which cited sources in both London and Washington who described President Trump as “apoplectic” in his phone call last week with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The subject of Trump’s ire: The UK’s new deal with Huawei that would give the Chinese-owned company a stake in Britain’s cellphone networks.
The stakes of the war led Barr to suggest Thursday that the U.S. buy direct interest in companies like Nokia and Ericsson.
“It’s all very well to tell our friends and allies they shouldn’t install Huawei’s,” Barr said, “but whose infrastructure are they going to install?”