Is Tech Too Intertwined For Huawei To Fall? — Data Sheet

June 19, 2019, 8:46 AM UTC

Good morning. Eamon Barrett, filling in for Adam.

Fortune’s inaugural Brainstorm Finance conference kicks off in Montauk today, where big names from big banks will share the stage with crypto-crusaders and fintech innovators. Check in with Fortune for regular updates on the keynotes, beamed in from the Hamptons.

But first, let me take you to China, where Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei recently revealed troubling financial data from the Chinese manufacturer.

At an event with a cloying title – A Coffee with Ren – Ren told the audience that international shipments of Huawei smartphones will drop 60%, while the company’s revenue forecast has fallen by $20 billion.

Huawei hawks might cheer the news but the collapse of the world’s largest manufacturer of telecom equipment would have global repercussions. The U.S. semiconductor industry makes $11 billion a year off of Huawei. Internet providers in some areas of rural America depend on the Huawei tech. It’s then no surprise that Huawei’s U.S. suppliers are lobbying the White House to go easy on the firm.

For some, Huawei is a case in point on how the trade war between China and the U.S. has devolved into a tech war, where rival blocs will only use technology from their allies. Others, like Singaporean hedge fund manager Kok-hoi Wong, believe we’re in an all out “economic war,” where all targets are fair game and the objective – from a U.S. standpoint – is to suppress China’s rise.

The rift has certainly spread into academia. The State Department increased visa restrictions for some Chinese students, and Bloomberg reports the FBI has evicted Chinese scientists from cancer research programs, to protect “intellectual property” that could save lives.

Founder of MIT’s Media Lab Nicholas Negroponte and investor George Gilder shared both coffee and stage with Ren, where they described Washington’s action against Huawei as a terrible mistake. Expanding the issue, Negroponte said, “There’s an importance to collaborate on knowledge, because if we start going in opposite directions, it’s going to be an enormous shame.”


Google Home. CEO Sundar Pichai announced in a blog post last night that Google will invest $1 billion in Bay Area housing, to alleviate the property crisis spurred by companies like itself. The $1 billion investment is expected to create 20,000 houses. Three quarters of that investment, however, will come through Google rezoning $750 million worth of commercial property it already owns.

Keeping it fake. If you didn’t know already, influencer lifestyles are fake. But at least, until recently, the people were real. Then along came Lil Miquela, a “virtual influencer” designed and generated by a computer lab in L.A. The inspirational avatar has 1.6 million Instagram followers and recently starred in a Calvin Klein commercial alongside the real Bella Hadid. More virtual influencers are coming, hired by marketeers to promote the latest trends. Looks like it’s time for influencers to unionize.

Shuffle in. Alibaba has placed CFO Maggie Wu in charge of its strategic acquisitions and investment units, seizing responsibility from Executive Vice-Chairman Joe Tsai. The reshuffle comes as revenue growth slows and the e-commerce giant seeks new cash cows. Tsai will retain his title as executive vice-chairman but Wu’s appointment is the most significant personnel change since founder Jack Ma resigned as chairman last year.

Stalling down Electric Avenue. Data firm PitchBook says Chinese EVs have secured just $783 million in funding as of mid-June, compared to $6 billion for the same period last year. The market is on a turn. Recently, Nio changed course and formed a JV with a state-owned company; Xpeng expanded into ride-hailing to boost unit sales; and a series of EV fires, including one Tesla, prompted Beijing to demand all EV makers carry out stringent safety checks.


The Wall Street Journal ponders how 13 became the “age of adulthood” for the internet. It’s the minimum age requirement most regular content providers – Google, Facebook, etc. ­– set for access to their services. That age limit was introduced in 1998 to protect the privacy of children but it was never intended to serve as a content warning. As the internet has developed into a warren of risky clicks, some legislators want to raise the bar to 16, but it might not take hold.

“Can you imagine getting a 14-year-old to come off social media until a parent provides verifiable permission?” says Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. Plus, verifying a minor’s age would require even more data collection. “And then what happens to all of that data?”


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Who knows how many important lunch dates were missed when Google Calendar went down for three hours yesterday, but the memes were gold. Another silver lining: the outage, which came an hour after Google bragged of Calendar’s simplicity, might have saved you from new phishing scams targeting your planner. Temporarily, at least.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Eamon Barrett. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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