🌍 Huawei files lawsuit against Portuguese ban

Plus: Indonesian smog

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Hi there Intriguer. Thursdays don’t get enough credit. In Thailand, it’s good luck to wear orange on Thursdays. Swedes enjoy pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays. And folks in Estonia hit the sauna on Thursdays. So wherever you are, just get out there and punish that pea soup, rock that orange sweater, or work up that schvitz. It’s Thursday!

Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 📱 Huawei fights back against a ban in Portugal.

  • 🇮🇩 Indonesia wants to clear the air.

  • Plus: The Panama Canal returns to Panama, how the papers are covering Blinken’s surprise visit to Kyiv, and why Canadians are googling ‘Janmashtami’.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇦🇲 Armenia: The Armenian military will host US forces for nine-day exercises starting Monday (11 September). A Kremlin spokesperson said the drills, which will include 85 American servicemembers, were cause for “concern.” 

  2. 🇪🇸 Spain: An exiled Catalan separatist leader has called on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to pardon those behind the unlawful Catalan independence referendum of 2017. Without Catalan backing, Sánchez lacks the numbers to form a government.

  3. 🇵🇰 Pakistan: Authorities closed the main border crossing to Afghanistan yesterday (6 September) after security forces exchanged fire on both sides. Pakistan says it’s completed fencing along 97% of the border to stop cross-border attacks and smuggling.

  4. 🇨🇦 Canada: A criminal trial has begun for the leaders of Canada’s ‘Freedom Convoy’, which expressed anger against vaccine mandates and disrupted trade for weeks last year. If convicted on mischief charges, the two defendants could face up to ten years in prison.

  5. 🇸🇿 Eswatini: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen is in Eswatini (pop: 1.5 million) for a four-day trip this week. Eswatini, Taiwan’s sole diplomatic ally in Africa, invited President Tsai to celebrate the kingdom’s 55-year anniversary yesterday (Wednesday).

📱 Portugal | Tech

Huawei has again found itself in the crosshairs.

Huawei sues Portugal over 5G ban

Chinese tech giant Huawei has filed a lawsuit against a ban on its equipment being used in Portugal’s 5G networks.

Lisbon’s cybersecurity council issued the resolution back in May; it doesn’t name Huawei directly, but prevents the use of 5G equipment from firms based outside the European Union, NATO, and the OECD.

A dozen or so other countries have already imposed their own limits on Huawei.

Why’s everyone so worried? Governments have been reluctant to share evidence (itself sometimes obtained via hacking), but Huawei has allegedly:

And notwithstanding Huawei’s denials (plus its claims that the bans are simply protectionism by another name), Western governments worry that Beijing can force Huawei to support China’s intel agencies regardless.

Despite all this, Huawei (with its low prices) is still leading the global 4/5G rollout:

  • It’s built 70% of Africa’s 4G infrastructure

  • More than half the 5G kit in eight EU countries is China-built, and

  • Huawei holds 20% of the global telco equipment market more broadly.

Intrigue's take: The way tech is evolving, it’s often hard to prove (publicly, at least) that specific actors are exploiting specific vulnerabilities to get specific data for specific purposes. So trust is key. And that broke down years ago.

Also worth noting:

  • Portugal’s main telco operators already announced in 2020 that they wouldn’t use Huawei kit in their core 5G networks.

  • Huawei just launched a new 5G phone, prompting speculation about China’s ability to source advanced chips despite US sanctions.

  • Huawei is suing Sweden under the country’s bilateral investment treaty with China.

📰 How newspapers covered…

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s surprise trip to Kyiv

New York, US

“Russian missile strike kills 17 at Ukraine market as Blinken visits to show support, offer more U.S. help”

Kyiv, Ukraine

“Blinken arrives in Kyiv to discuss counteroffensive, reconstruction with Ukrainian leadership”

Moscow, Russia

“Blinken to announce more than $1 bln in aid to Kiev regime”

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🇮🇩 Indonesia | Energy & climate

Smog is obscuring Jakarta’s iconic Wisma 46 skyscraper.

Jakarta is the world’s most polluted city

Indonesia has ordered a major coal-fired plant operator outside Jakarta’s metro area (pop: 31 million) to halve output in order to address air pollution.

The curb came just as the capital city hosted this week’s ASEAN Summit, and was presumably one of several steps Indonesia took to put on its best face.

But cosmetic measures won’t be enough to clear the world’s most-polluted city's air. Policymakers have also:

  • 🚄 Opened a new light rail to serve the metro area

  • 💻 Ordered some civil servants to work from home to reduce commutes, and

  • 🏗️ Broken ground on a new capital, Nusantara, to alleviate Jakarta’s congestion.

Intrigue’s take: Interestingly, a US and Japan-led partnership of rich countries promised $20B to help wean Indonesia off coal at last year’s G20 in Bali. But the details have proven devilish, and the partners said last month they need several more months to kick things off.

For the pollution-choked residents of Jakarta, there’s no time to waste.

Also worth noting:

  • Several press reports have speculated that Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s stubborn cough is related to the capital’s air pollution.

  • Indonesia currently generates around 60% of its electricity from coal, and is the world’s largest coal exporter.

Extra Intrigue

Here’s what people were googling on Wednesday 6 September:

  • 🇨🇿 Czechs searched for ‘Zbyšek Pantůček’ as reports emerged that the country’s famous actor and musician had gone missing.

  • 🇮🇳 Indian sports fans googled ‘Ben Shelton’ after the young American tennis player landed a spot in the US Open semi-finals.

  • 🇨🇦 And folks in Canada looked up ‘Janmashtami 2023’, as Hindus everywhere celebrate the birth of Krishna this week.

🗳️ Poll time!

What festivity are you most looking forward to this northern fall / southern spring?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

📜 Today in history

A US political cartoon depicting Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal situation. Credits: New York Times, 1903.

Today in 1977, US President Jimmy Carter and Panama’s leader Omar Torrijos signed a treaty to eventually transfer control of the Panama Canal from the US to Panama. Washington had secured the rights to the canal in 1903 after it sided with Panamanian secessionists breaking away from Colombia.

Yesterday’s poll: What do you think the future looks like for the ASEAN bloc?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💪 It represents a fast-growing region and will have heft to match (21%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🤷 It's too divided to meaningfully shape the world (76%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (3%)

Your two cents:

  • 💪 C.L: “Has potential. Unlike blocs like BRICS, the members should at least have regional common interests of some sort. But just like other blocs, they can't seem to get traction in actually working together, and translating words into action. Until they do, it's just a nice get-together for photo ops.”

  • 🤷 V.S: “Very much like the BRICS. […] there are simply too many competing opinions on geopolitical issues for ASEAN to ever be meaningful.”

  • ✍️ M.Q.K: “It's been a fast-growing region for a while, but has never been able to wield influence internationally outside of the bloc. Unless there's more determination from its members and willingness to wield its influence over major shipping routes and economies, it'll always be a paper tiger.”

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