Decoupling from China

How U.S. Asian Allies Responded to the Huawei Ban

Published in: Australian Journal of International Affairs (2022). doi: 10.1080/10357718.2021.2016611

Posted on RAND.org on January 06, 2022

by Ji-Young Lee, Eugeniu Han, Keren Zhu

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As the U.S.-China strategic rivalry has intensified, Washington has looked to its close allies and partners to counter Chinese clout in global technology leadership. With the Huawei ban as a proxy for the U.S.-China competition, the paper focuses on the concept of the alliance halo and analyzes how the three key U.S. allies in Asia—Australia, Japan, and South Korea—responded to Washington's expectations of mutual support on the decoupling of Chinese technology companies from global supply chains. We argue that given that the Huawei ban is about future risks associated with China's economy, as opposed to demonstrated military threats, it was more challenging to establish allied reliability within the U.S. alliance network ias a whole. Our comparative analysis shows that Australia's reactions have been the most direct, banning Huawei before the United States, showing a contrast with South Korea's relatively muted responses. Japan's decision to ban Huawei was as decisive as Australia's but Tokyo sought to keep a low profile. Rather than the diplomatic pressure from the Trump administration, these allies' varied responses resulted from their own assessments of security risks associated with Huawei.

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