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Conspiracy theorists suggest US ban on Huawei due to 50x super spy lens

Conspiracy theorists have argued, perhaps tongue in cheek, that the real reason for the U.S. trade ban on Huawei is the 'insane' optical zoom on the Chinese company's phone cameras.

The U.S. Commerce Department blocked Huawei Technologies from buying U.S. goods last week, saying the company assists Chinese state intelligence agencies and violated Iran sanctions.

Chinese diplomat Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief-of-mission at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, responded by sharing a video on Twitter showing the Huawei P30 Pro's 50x optical zoom focusing on two boys playing Chinese chess in a park from many stories above.

'Why is Huawei making America tremble and go insane? Huawei's new phone camera's optical zoom is just insane,' Zhao wrote. 

A video shared by a Chinese diplomat shows the incredible 50x zoom of the Huawei P30 Pro, focusing in on two boys playing Chinese chess from a skyscraper far above

Huawei released the P30 in March, though the phones cannot be bought in the US officially. In 2017 the company accounted for only two percent of the smartphones in America, although the company ships more than 200million units per year.

Unlocked Latin American versions compatible with some major U.S. carriers can be purchased online, but the appeal of the handsets in the U.S. seems limited mostly to smartphone junkies and tech journalists.

Photos and video posted online show the phone's powerful optical zoom.

'Crazy zoom. Impressed with the versatility of this camera,' one user wrote on Twitter. 

'The Zoom capabilities on the Huawei P30 Pro are insane,' another remarked. 

The Trump administration's order last week steps up pressure on Huawei, which Washington says is a security risk, and threatens to hamper sales of network gear and other products. 

Huawei is the No. 2 global smartphone brand but relies on Google's Android operating system and U.S. components suppliers. 

Promotional images from Huawei show the zoom on the phone, which was released in March. The company's handsets are not officially available in the US

On Monday, the Commerce Department granted Huawei a license to buy U.S. goods until August 19 to maintain existing telecoms networks and provide software updates to Huawei smartphones, a move intended to give telecom operators that rely on Huawei time to make other arrangements.

Huawei is still prohibited from buying American-made hardware and software to make new products without further, hard-to-obtain licenses.

Monday's temporary license is likely to allow companies such as Google to continue providing service and support, including software updates or patches, to Huawei smartphones that were available to the public on or before May 16.

'Keeping phones up to date and secure is in everyone's best interests and this temporary license allows us to continue to provide software updates and security patches to existing models for the next 90 days,' a Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email on Tuesday.

US tech stocks rose on Tuesday on news of the grace period. Chipmakers rallied, with Qualcomm gaining 2.1 per cent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was up 1.2 per cent in mid-morning trading. Google shares were up 0.95 per cent, after opening down on Monday after news of the trading ban. 

In Europe, the tech sector rose 1.49 per cent after losing almost 3 per cent on Monday, as chipmakers AMS AG of Austria, Franco-Italian STMicroelectronics and Germany's Infineon all gained. 

A five-day view of Google's share prices shows the price rebounding in Tuesday trading

Huawei is still prohibited from buying American-made hardware and software to make new products without further, hard-to-obtain licenses.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei on Tuesday told Chinese state media that the reprieve bore little meaning for the company as it had been making preparations for such a scenario.

'The U.S. government's actions at the moment underestimate our capabilities,' Ren said in an interview with CCTV, according to a transcript published by the Chinese state broadcaster.

Chip experts have called out Huawei on its claims that it could ensure a steady supply chain without U.S. help, saying the technology it buys from American companies would be 'hard to replace'.

Nearly 16 percent of Huawei's spending on components in 2018 went to U.S. firms including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron Technology, analysts said.

Beijing has struck an increasingly defiant tone as the trade war has escalated, saying it will take measures to safeguard the interests of its companies, but has not said whether or how it may retaliate over the U.S. action against Huawei.

President Xi Jinping's Monday visit to a rare-earth company in southern China sparked speculation that the sector could be the next front in the trade war, driving up shares in Chinese rare-earth related firms on Tuesday.

China produced 80% of rare-earths, a group of 17 chemical elements used in electronics, imported by the United States in 2017.

'Given the Huawei decision, I feel they (China) have no choice but to retaliate, for face sake,' Cliff Tan, head of East Asian research at MUFG Bank in Hong Kong, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum on Tuesday.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei (seen in file photo) said on Tuesday that the U.S. controls 'will have no impact within this company'

Huawei is currently on the receiving end of a U.S. government accusation that it engaged in bank fraud to obtain embargoed U.S. goods and services in Iran and move money via the international banking system. Huawei has pleaded not guilty.

The trade blacklist has added to its woes, following which Alphabet Inc's Google suspended some business with Huawei, Reuters reported on Sunday citing a person familiar with the matter, raising worries about the Chinese firm's smartphones that run on Google's Android operating system.

Monday's temporary license is likely to allow companies such as Google to continue providing service and support, including software updates or patches, to Huawei smartphones that were available to the public on or before May 16.

'Keeping phones up to date and secure is in everyone's best interests and this temporary license allows us to continue to provide software updates and security patches to existing models for the next 90 days,' a Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email on Tuesday.

The license also allows Huawei to engage in the development of standards for fifth-generation (5G) telecom networks.

Washington has tried to persuade U.S. allies to shun Huawei as a supplier of fifth-generation technology. 

Australia, Taiwan and some other governments have imposed curbs on use of Huawei technology, but Germany, France and other countries still do business with the company. 

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