Huawei has gone on the offensive this week against what it says is politically-motivated fear-mongering by the U.S. government. More substantially, the firm says that it will never collaborate with the Chinese government.
“I object to what the U.S. has done,” Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in a recent interview with the UK-based BBC. “This kind of politically-motivated act is not acceptable.”
Mr. Ren’s comments regard recent U.S. governmental actions against Huawei, which include criminal charges both corporate and personal: Ren’s daughter, Meng Wanzhou, is Huawei’s CFO, and she was arrested in December in Canada at the request of the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice charged that Ms. Meng worked on behalf of Huawei for over a decade to steal trade secrets from competitors, obstruct a criminal investigation, and evade economic sanctions on Iran.
More generally, the U.S.-led Huawei smear campaign is really about China, a rising economic, political, and military power that is expected to surpass the United States in the coming years. Fear of this future, and of Chinese companies’ close ties to the China government, has led to what many feel are evidence-free and xenophobic fears of Huawei and other Chinese tech firms. And to a trade war between the U.S. and China.
The U.S. campaign has had an impact, too: Australia and New Zealand have joined the U.S. in banning the use of Huawei 5G networking infrastructure for the coming wave, and Canada is now evaluating the supposed threat. European countries are likewise picking sides, though everything moves slowly in Europe. Regardless, Ren says that the U.S.-led efforts are doomed to fail.
“The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced,” Ren said during the interview. “If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world … If the US doesn’t trust us, then we will shift our investment from the US to the UK on an even bigger scale.”
As for the spying claims, Ren says that Huawei has never acted on behalf of the Chinese government and never will.
“The Chinese government has already clearly said that it won’t install any backdoors,” he explained. “And we won’t install backdoors either. We’re not going to risk the disgust of our country and of our customers all over the world, because of something like this. Our company will never undertake any spying activities. If we have any such actions, then I’ll shut the company down.”
The problem for the United States, of course, is that Huawei doesn’t need it to be successful. As is the case in the smartphone market, where Huawei is now the world’s second-largest maker of handsets despite having no presence at all in the U.S., Huawei’s networking infrastructure business can still succeed, if not dominate, worldwide.
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