Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei says clash with the US was ‘inevitable’
- Huawei CEO said he foresaw the confrontation with Washington because its aim to be global leader threatened US interests
- Ren Zhengfei said US trade restrictions have no impact on Huawei’s 5G plans as rivals cannot catch up within two to three years
Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei said he foresaw the clash with the US government, saying it was a matter of time before the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker threatened US interests and attracted retaliation.
“We sacrificed [the interests of] individuals and families for the sake of an ideal, to stand at the top of the world,” Ren said in interview with Chinese state media on Tuesday. “For this ideal, there will be conflict with the United States sooner or later.”
The US government last week placed Huawei and its affiliates on a trade black list that restricted the Shenzhen-based company from buying services and parts from US companies without approval. US President Donald Trump also signed an executive order barring US companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms posing a national security risk. The move was widely perceived in China as the US trying to contain the rise of its technological capabilities.
Following the export order, top US corporations including chip-makers Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx and Broadcom have told their employees they will not supply Huawei until further notice, according to a Bloomberg report on Monday. Google also suspended access to some services for new Huawei Android devices.
Ren said the US ban has no impact on Huawei’s 5G plans and that its rivals cannot catch up with the company for at least two to three years, adding that US politicians have underestimated the company.
A 90-day reprieve from the US government on Monday to allow Huawei to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei phones also meant little as the company was “ready” for the restrictions, Ren said, according to transcripts of his interview carried by state-run China Central Television’s social media account.
Huawei’s wholly owned semiconductor unit HiSilicon, which produces chips for smartphones and servers for the company, has prepared for years to cope with a scenario like the US cutting off access to advanced chips and technology, HiSilicon’s president Teresa He Tingbo wrote in a memo following the restrictions last week.
HiSilicon devoted significant resources to building a backup to ensure the survival of the group, and with the US putting Huawei and its affiliates on a trade blacklist, that backup plan is being put to use and will “ensure the strategic safety of most of the company’s products and the continuous supply of most products”, He said.
Ren said that Huawei will not easily give up on US chips but has a backup. The company is able to make American-quality semiconductors but does not mean it will not buy them, he said.
Huawei is nevertheless “very grateful” to American companies, who have contributed a lot to Huawei. Many of Huawei’s consultants are from American companies such as IBM, Ren said.
Asked how long the crisis will last for Huawei, Ren said the question should be directed at Trump instead.
“Blame should be directed at US politicians, not companies,” he said.