Fifteen years ago, a brilliant French switch engineer claimed, "The Chinese can never do what we do." I looked at him and replied, "B_______. Hundreds of Asians worked in Bell Labs. Do you think their cousins back home are not as smart as they are?" His company is long gone. Two of the five leading telecom manufacturers are Chinese, one Korean, one Swedish, and one Finnish. No company in France - or the United States - can deliver a major mobile network. 

An SCMP article covered the long march still ahead to match Intel processors. That's not true in telecom. Qualcomm still probably makes the best mobile chips, but Huawei's HiSilicon is very close. Know-nothings in D.C. thought ZTE was dependent on America and made bad policy.

90% of the ZTE components could be immediately sourced today in Asia. The remaining few, mostly RF and FPGA, are actively being researched in China and could be quickly developed.

It might take six to eighteen months to redesign the current ZTE products, but they would recover. The big losers of the ZTE battle include many of the best American chipmakers; China and many others will make sure to shift enough demand away from the U.S. to never be dependent again. The cost to American manufacturers will be tens of billions.

Here's my letter to the editor of SCMP. 

Thank you for your article, “China’s long march for the soul of the nation’s digital future” (May 26). It offers important information about China’s effort in processor chips.

In my field, telecommunications, China has already become a leader. Recently, both Huawei and Qualcomm released chips for mobile phones supporting a download speed of two gigabits per second. They demonstrated the same quality of engineering. Massive MIMO, a key part of 5G, was invented in New Jersey but ZTE and Huawei were the first to market it. They were more than a year ahead of the West.

This should surprise no one. For a decade, whenever I have visited electronic engineers at places like Stanford University, many of those I have met are from China. I recently reported on research at China’s Tsinghua and Southeast universities.

Some in Washington have the false belief that other countries cannot advance without American technology. That leads them to make very bad decisions. I learn from China and I know my Chinese friends learn from the best in America. Dave Burstein, New York