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Huawei

Huawei dials up the charm as global pressure builds after arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou

  • Shenzhen-based Huawei says it is a wrongly maligned international citizen crucial to the future of wireless communications
PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 4:33pm

Guided tours of some of its most sensitive facilities. A private sit-down for international media with its top executive. A heartfelt personal diary describing a devastating earthquake.

In the weeks since the shock arrest of its chief financial officer, Huawei Technologies has almost become a different company.

The detention of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Canada has shone an unprecedented spotlight on China’s largest technology company, which found itself thrust into the centre of US-Chinese tensions.

Huawei blasts US ‘fearmongering’ as security concerns sharpen following arrest of Meng Wanzhou

Because the US accused Meng, daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, of bank fraud to violate Iranian sanctions, even its internal controls were called into question.

In response, the company amped up a charm offensive, saying it is a wrongly maligned international citizen crucial to the future of wireless communications.

To be sure, Huawei has in past years taken steps to address complaints about its lack of transparency by reporting more of its financial results and building labs to showcase proprietary technology.

But it has recently gone to atypical lengths, inviting foreign media to tour its campuses in the southern Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Dongguan, and opening its secretive “White House” research base to reporters.

Perhaps most incongruously, Huawei circulated a 700-word diary entry it said Meng wrote after getting mail from an unnamed Japanese fan. It was entitled “There Is Always Good in People!” and explained how the letter writer said she was “very sad” for Meng’s arrest in Canada and “cannot keep silent any longer”.

The privately held company took the unusual step of making rotating chairman Ken Hu Houkun available for a two-hour, free-form question-and-answer session on Tuesday.

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“This year has been so eventful, hasn’t it,” Hu told reporters as he defended the company’s track record and slammed US accusations about its independence and alleged role in espionage. “Lots of countries have various concerns on 5G. Most of these concerns are reasonable and based on technology. With regard to such concerns, we’ll work with governments and operators to clear them up.”

Huawei’s urge to reach out is understandable given its position: its years-long, costly effort to achieve a strong position in 5G mobile network projects now risks running afoul of the conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

The company needs to again assure customers around the world that it is the best choice, and dispel concerns its equipment is less than secure or could be subverted by Beijing – something it has always denied.

Inside China Tech: How the Huawei case is impacting US and China tech and trade

In the diary entry Huawei provided, Meng painstakingly outlined the company’s above-and-beyond response to earthquakes that rocked Japan and Nepal years back, and described an outpouring of support from around the world.

“My lawyer said that he had been practising law for over 40 years and had never seen anything like this, with so many strangers willing to issue guarantees for a person that they don’t know personally,” she wrote.