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Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei, gestures during a round table meeting with the media in Shenzhen on January 15, 2019. Photo: AP

Huawei founder says West would be ‘foolish’ not to buy its 5G products as they are leading edge

  • In his first ever TV interview, Ren Zhengfei said Huawei’s wireless and 5G solutions are world class and will solve issues many Western countries face in 5G

Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei went on China’s state broadcaster to defend the telecommunications gear supplier’s track record in his first-ever television interview, a move prompted by western government bans on its 5G equipment over security concerns.

Speaking in a CCTV interview that aired Sunday, the 74-year-old founder of the company said Huawei’s wireless and 5G solutions are world class and will solve issues many Western countries face in 5G development, especially in sparsely populated rural areas.

“They are foolish and will lose money if they don’t buy [our products],” Ren told a CCTV reporter who asked his view on the bans some countries have slapped on Huawei equipment.

“We have many things that the European and American countries need, and they will have to purchase from us,” said Ren, who added that he was confident about Huawei’s competitive position in wireless and 5G development when compared to its global peers.

Ren, who has rarely spoken to the media since founding Huawei in 1987, has embarked on a public-relations campaign to rebuild the company’s image, speaking with at least three groups of reporters in Shenzhen last week, including a group interview with selected international media, a group interview with domestic media, as well as the CCTV appearance.

Ren admitted that he was “forced” by Huawei’s public relations team to agree to the interviews as the company was in a “transitional stage” of the current crisis and must unite its customers and 180,000 employees so they understand the company better and can deal with this difficult period. Ren added that the company believes he has the authority and should speak to the public.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment vendor, is facing growing pressure from Western countries, particularly the US, over claims it has close ties with the Chinese government. Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have either banned or are reviewing whether to allow Huawei equipment to be installed in their telecommunication networks.

Earlier this month, Norway’s justice minister said the country was considering whether to join other western nations in excluding Huawei from building part of the Nordic country’s new 5G infrastructure.

Regardless of the friction, Huawei will “definitely sell products to them even if they have refused us, as we are a market company, we are customer-centric", Ren told CCTV.

“But I will focus on the countries that want to buy our products,” he added.

Huawei should prepare for hard times as the overall environment will not be as optimistic as hoped in the next few years, Ren said in an internal meeting on November 16, 2018, two weeks before the arrest of chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou on December 1, according to a copy of the memo released by Huawei on Friday.

The founder said Huawei’s current problem is that the organisation is bloated and overstaffed, with too many management levels that the company is trying to reform.

“If we can achieve success in organisational reforms in about five years, we will still be competitive to fight,” Ren said in the CCTV interview.