Huawei’s Ken Hu says company has little to do with Beijing’s ambitious 2025 blueprint

  • Huawei is deeply invested in the research and development of 5G, artificial intelligence and semiconductor technologies, which are among the major areas covered by the ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 8:07am

A senior executive at Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier, said the company has little to do with Beijing’s top agenda to boost industrial modernisation.

“We used to have some discussions [about it] over the past few years, but what we are doing now does not have much to do with the 2025 agenda,” Ken Hu Houkun, Huawei’s rotating chairman, told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview in Japan published on Tuesday, when asked about the company’s role in that master plan.

He said Huawei “did not do much research on the Made in China 2025 policy”.

Developments in 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductors have become embroiled in a wider row over “Made in China 2025” (MIC2025), the programme that has become a lightning rod in the escalating trade war between the US and China. Sensing a threat to its global technological dominance, the US has seized on the plan as an example of what it sees as unfair state intervention in China’s economy.

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Shenzhen-based Huawei, which is also the world’s second biggest smartphone supplier, is deeply invested in the research and development of 5G, AI and semiconductor technologies, which are among the major areas covered by the MIC2025 strategy.

In the Nikkei interview, Hu responded to security concerns about Huawei’s efforts to drive the development of 5G networks, emphasising that the company’s ambition to take the lead in the next-generation mobile technology should not be politicised.

He said Huawei’s goal was to make the smartphone a hub on which an intelligent digital environment can be created for every home in the world, while also providing other solutions ranging from tablets and personal computers to televisions and smart speakers.

Huawei had no comment on the Nikkei report, according to a spokesman for the privately held Chinese company.

Launched by Premier Li Keqiang in 2015, the MIC2025 strategy aims to guide the country’s industrial modernisation, including the substitution of foreign technology with innovation developed on the mainland. The initiative has specified a number of areas where the country should take the lead, such as telecoms equipment, AI and semiconductors.

Huawei executive says unified, objective security standard needed to take politics out of 5G roll-out

The Trump administration, however, has been particularly sensitive with the advances being made by Chinese companies in those three areas, where the US has had a big headstart on China in terms of investments and technological innovation.

5G, for example, has become “a political play between the US and China” as America tries to get other major economies, such as Australia and Canada, to ban 5G solutions provided by Chinese telecoms equipment companies Huawei and ZTE, according to Nikhil Batra, a senior research manager for telecommunications at IDC, in a report last month by the South China Morning Post.

‘Made in China 2025’: how new technologies could help Beijing achieve its dream of becoming a semiconductor giant

Success in 5G development is expected to help improve China’s bargaining power with foreign patent holders, which would help lower costs for mainland telecoms equipment makers, chip companies and other enterprises in the supply chain.

Huawei, with an estimated 40 per cent global market share in telecommunications equipment sales to mobile network operators, and ZTE had been hoping to pursue global 5G projects following previous efforts to supply 4G network gear to overseas markets.

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But the two suppliers have been effectively shut out of the US telecoms equipment market because Washington remains wary of the security threat posed by Chinese hi-tech suppliers.

Last month, Huawei introduced two self-developed chips that the company said would help extend the application of AI to “all walks of life”.

‘Made in China 2025’: China has a competitive AI game plan but success will need cooperation

Huawei devices with those chips, however, are unlikely to be sold in the world’s largest economy because of Washington’s security concerns.

While Huawei generates 60 per cent of its revenue outside China and serves more than 500 telecoms network operators around the world, US intelligence has warned companies in America that the Chinese firm has links to Beijing and that its products pose a threat to cybersecurity.