Huawei Restricted From Using Google’s Android as U.S.-China Tensions Mount

Patrick Frater

Google has prevented controversial Chinese tech firm Huawei from accessing the latest versions of the Android mobile phone operating system. The move follows U.S. government attempts to blacklist the Chinese firm.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” Google sources told news agencies Sunday. “Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android and will not be able to get access to proprietary apps and services from Google.”

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Cutting off access to Android may damage Huawei’s multinational cell phone business. It is one of the world’s three largest phone makers and has an especially large proportion of its activity in developing countries.

It is unclear which other Google apps may be affected. The digital giant said that “the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

The Trump administration has been at loggerheads with Huawei for months. It worries about the availability and security of Huawei’s 5G network technology and has accused the company of potentially enabling the Chinese government to use the equipment for spying.

The government has also sought the extradition of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, who was arrested in Canada. That move has dragged Ottawa into a three-way diplomatic tussle involving Beijing and Washington.

On Thursday, the U.S. put Huawei on a trade blacklist. That would have made it difficult for Huawei to operate with any U.S. company, including Google and chip makers. But on Friday it appeared to modify the restrictions and “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment.”

It was also reported Sunday that Western content was being blocked on the Internet within China. On Monday morning local time, China’s Tencent Video suspended the availability of the season finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” TV blockbuster.

“Dear users, we regret to inform you that the sixth episode of the eighth season of ‘Game of Thrones’ will not go online at the intended time due to media transfer issues. We will keep you informed of the broadcast time,” Tencent Video said in a social media posting.

In recent hours, Chinese sources have told Variety that streaming operations in China are back to normal. It is not clear whether the Huawei-Google and the online video incidents are connected, though some users were quick to point to the growing political tensions between the U.S. and China as a possible cause.

The two superpowers are engaged in a trade war that has seen both side impose tariffs on goods from the other. A resolution had been expected earlier this month, but it failed to emerge and instead a further round of tariff increases was announced by both.

To date, the entertainment industry has largely been spared the worst of the trade dispute, though Chinese state-owned newspaper The Global Times last week suggested action against American cultural products.

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