IEEE lifts ban on Huawei employees

A major science publisher lifted a restriction Monday morning on Huawei employees, who were earlier banned from reviewing papers due to US sanctions on the Chinese firm. This reversal marked a major turnaround amid a raging tech war between China and the US, analysts said.

The New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) said in a statement on Monday that it has received the requested clarification from the US Department of Commerce on the applicability of these export control restrictions to IEEE’s publication activities.

According to the new statement, employees of Huawei and its affiliates may participate as peer reviewers and editors in the IEEE’s publication process, the statement noted. And all IEEE members, regardless of employer, can continue to participate in all of the activities of the IEEE.

The China Computer Federation (CCF), a major computer research body, welcomed the IEEE’s latest move. It said in a statement on Monday that it hopes the US association maintains academic neutrality and treat members equally.

CCF said it will resume cooperation with IEEE and its affiliates. It cut ties on Thursday with IEEE after the latter issued a ban on Huawei employees from peer review.

Under tremendous pressure from the public, IEEE changed its rhetoric, explaining that its initial more restrictive approach was to protect their members from legal risks, and now the risks have been addressed with clarification from authorities.

“In this battle, Huawei and Chinese academics are safeguarding the international standards and shared values of the science world, and the Chinese side has gained a victory,” Mei Xinyu, a veteran analyst close to the Ministry of Commerce, told the Global Times on Monday.

The global science and tech community cannot ignore the rise of Chinese scholars, especially after they have been contributing more to global scientific research, the analyst noted.

China has clarified its stance amid the escalating trade war with the US, which has already become a tech war.

For instance, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Friday it will soon release a non-reliable entity list, which will include foreign entities, individuals and companies that block and shut the supply chain or take discriminatory measures for non-commercial reasons.

“It’s also likely that IEEE is afraid of being included on the list,” Mei said.

Huawei did not comment when contacted by the Global Times on Monday.

The incident also showed the difference between IEEE and its affiliate Communications Society (ComSoc), as ComSoc was the one that rushed into a decision to restrict Huawei following the US ban, a source close to the matter, who preferred not to be named, told the Global Times on Monday.

“IEEE recognizes the importance of China’s contribution to scientific research and cooperation, so it timely adjusted its stance to play down the impact of ComSoc’s aggressive tone,” the source said.