Steve Bannon says killing Huawei more important than trade deal with China

  • Driving the telecommunications giant out of Western markets is ‘10 times more important’ than a trade deal
  • Trump’s former strategist says he won’t stop there, with plans to exclude all Chinese companies from capital markets

Driving Huawei out of the United States and Europe is “10 times more important” than a trade deal with China, according to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

He also said he would dedicate all his time to shutting Chinese companies out of US capital markets.

The remark by Bannon, a strong advocate of an “all-encompassing war” against China, came days after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning Huawei from the US market and cutting off its vital components supply.

“It is a massive national security issue to the West,” Bannon said, in a phone interview on Saturday with the South China Morning Post. “The executive order is 10 times more important than walking away from the trade deal. It [Huawei] is a major national security threat, not just to the US but to the rest of the world. We are going to shut it down”.

Bannon did not elaborate on the supposed specific security risks of Huawei’s products. The Chinese tech company has openly challenged the US claim and some major Western countries, such as Germany, have also said they have seen no hard evidence so far to back up US allegations.

The US ban on Huawei came as a shock to capital markets and the tech industry.

Jude Blanchette of the Crumpton Group, a business advisory and geopolitical risk firm based in the US, said that while there was “a broad consensus” in Washington on the security concerns over Huawei equipment, the president’s executive order had surprised the market because of the “disruptive reach and economic implications”.

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“We’re entering uncharted territory where actions to defend against perceived security risks cut sharply and often imprecisely at complex global supply chains,” Blanchette said.

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But Bannon is adamant that Huawei needs to be driven out of Western markets altogether, suggesting Trump made “a mistake” in lifting a similar sanction last July on ZTE – another Chinese telecommunications equipment maker.

The US had imposed the ZTE ban on the grounds that it had broken the American sanctions on Iran. But, at Trump’s urging, the restrictions on ZTE were lifted after the Chinese company agreed to a number of terms and conditions for its future operations.

“During the trade talks’ early stage, he [Trump] gave a waiver for ZTE, which I think was a mistake,” Bannon said.

Bannon, who was fired by Trump in August 2017, is also calling for shutting Chinese companies out of American capital markets.

“The next move we make is to cut off all the IPOs, unwind all the pension funds and insurance companies in the US that provide capital to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

“We’ll see a big move on Wall Street to restrict access to capital markets to Chinese companies until [they agree to] this fundamental reform.”

China won’t be number one on my watch, says Donald Trump
In March this year Bannon revived the cold war

Committee on the Present Danger

(CPD) specifically to target China.

The CPD was first established in the early 1950s as a bulwark against the influence of communism in the US. The group disbanded after some leading members were drafted into the Dwight Eisenhower administration, but was reformed in 1976 by US foreign policy hawks to counter the Soviet Union during the cold war.

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Without providing further details, Bannon said he “talks to senior officials in the White House every day about China”. When asked if he meets Trump regularly, the right-wing populist said, “No, if I need to talk to him, I go through his lawyers.”

But he cited reports by The New York Times and Politico in the past couple of months which said Trump “liked Steve a lot”.

“It is pretty well known I was the one who worked closest with President Trump,” Bannon said. “I’m much farther to the right than President Trump on this [China]. And I pride myself with that. [I’m] the super hawk.”

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Bannon said the objective of what he called “an economic war” with China was to force Beijing to carry out fundamental reforms.

“I don’t think it’s going to be resolved quickly. This is the beginning of a very long and tough process,” he said.

“I have dedicated my life to this. This is what I do 24 hours a day. The pressure we are going to keep up will be relentless. We are not going to be quiet.”