The mother of all battles, but also an unprecedented technological leap. In a world digitally cut in two, being Chinese and doing business in the West in the telecommunications sector is an exercise where a lot of balance is needed. The sensitive and strategic information of governmental and multinational institutions travels on these infrastructures. Industrial secrets, cyber espionage, geopolitical interference, cyber intrusions, risk of invisible access doors. If the Biden administration is continuing in the wake of the previous Trump-led one, it is because the United States believes that leaving 5g technology to the Chinese, the new and disruptive standard of mobile telephony, means losing its digital sovereignty, putting the national interest at risk. .
From the opposite point of view, however, the effort is indubitable. The Chinese ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications giant at risk of blocking the installation of equipment in the North American market, needs to be accredited. Listed in Shenzhen, it has opened up to the capital market, it certainly responds to better and more sophisticated controls on corporate governance than its compatriot Huawei, which has never done so. Peng Aiguang, ZTE number one for Europe and the United States, says that «the company is always open and transparent. Collaborative, attentive only to customer needs ». “Willing to create partnerships in such a varied sector” that he has no passports.
Evidence would be the current shortage of semiconductors, microchips on which software companies rely to run applications. If the physical brains, made of electrical circuits, are too few to cover the world demand, then it is necessary to make a virtue of necessity. “Investing in this segment to be as independent as possible, says Peng, but collaborative with European and American companies”. The progress of humanity is at stake. And any ideological opposition that is imbued with this technological bipolarity between the US and China (with Europe as an interested spectator) does not help anyone. Stopping on 5g means stopping progress. “There are no health risks, because the constraints on electromagnetic emissions are very stringent especially in consideration of the fact that the new mobile standard brings with it thousands of small antennas per square kilometer to lower the latency time”.
Imagine that objects communicate with each other via sensors, that the cars communicate with the entire ecosystem of the road system up to driving assisted by software, can only be possible if we abandon all resistance. “Zte, says Peng, is raising investments in research and development to 16% of revenues”. A titanic effort that brings with it questions about the ability to raise enough cash without eroding margins. Peng assures that it is the only possible way. “European customers respond well, they place orders, they trust Zte technology because the products improve year after year”. An example is Open Fiber, a historic customer of Zte in Italy. The instrument of the golden power agitated by the government, already in force on the core network, that is the sensitive one where the encrypted and ultra-secret information of our institutions travels, serves to protect the national interest but risks becoming an obstacle to Chinese investments.
In the parliamentary arc of the multinational there are a bit of all the parties. But it is evident that the Draghi government has accentuated the Atlanticist, more pro-American position, also on the issue of telecommunications equipment. Yet Peng, skilled at dodging the most uncomfortable geopolitical questions, is also optimistic about the dialogue with the United States. He says that the confrontation is close, “it will depend on events” and on the interlocutors between the two countries, but “even now the North American market weighs much less for ZTE than in the past” without this having affected profits.