Teresa He Tingbo, president of HiSilicon, has emerged in the spotlight after she recently described the preparations made by the wholly owned semiconductor company of Huawei Technologies to continue operations, despite the trade ban imposed by the US government. She revealed in a company memo on May 17 that HiSilicon had devoted significant resources for many years to a backup plan that would ensure the survival of the group, which was put under a trade blacklist a day earlier by the US Department of Commerce. Shenzhen-based Huawei and 70 of its affiliates have been barred from buying hardware, software and services from American hi-tech suppliers without US government approval. Before that memo became widely circulated online in China, He was hardly known to the public even though she is one of the top three female executives in the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier. The two other senior female executives in Shenzhen-based Huawei are Chen Lifang, president of public affairs and communications, and chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei. Meng was arrested in Canada in December and is out on bail while awaiting possible extradition to the US. He has stepped forward on the front line months after Ren, who serves as Huawei’s chief executive, broke years of silence in January to address the hardline US campaign. Washington accuses Huawei of posing a security threat because its products may be used for espionage by Beijing, representing the biggest crisis to hit the privately held firm in more than three decades. In her memo, He compared the efforts to create a “spare tyre” to being the “most tragic and heroic Long March in the history of science and technology”, a reference to the military retreat between 1934 to 1936 undertaken by the Red Army, the forerunner of the People’s Liberation Army, to evade Kuomintang troops during the Chinese civil war. The thousands of marchers covered some of China’s harshest terrain and the feat is often evoked as a symbol of Chinese unity by the ruling Communist Party. She said HiSilicon’s contingency plan will “ensure the strategic safety of most of the company’s products and the continuous supply of most products”. Under a doomsday scenario of the US cutting off access to advanced chips and technology from American suppliers, HiSilicon would provide alternative chipsets, from those provided by the likes of Qualcomm and Intel Corp, for use in Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment. He leads more than 7,000 employees, located in China and various offices overseas, at HiSilicon, reputed to be the country’s largest designer of integrated circuits. Its chips are developed with technology licensed from the likes of ARM Holdings and fabricated by contract chip manufacturers. Its various chipset models, which have been certified in more than 100 countries and territories, are used in Huawei’s own smartphones, tablets, servers and security cameras. Born in 1969, He obtained a Master’s degree from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. She joined Huawei in 1996 and has since served as chief ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) engineer, research and development director at HiSilicon and vice-president of innovation research group 2012 Laboratories, according to her official biography on Huawei’s website. Repeated searches made within Huawei’s website did not show any business-related news story that mentioned He. There are also no publicly available news stories about He before her HiSilicon memo went viral online on May 17, except for a 2013 press release about an expanded relationship between HiSilicon and US processor technology provider Tensilica. Huawei’s chip unit says it prepared years ago for doomsday scenario of US tech ban He is so low profile that most photos of the HiSilicon president circulating on the internet are not her at all, according to Ren Zhengfei in an interview with the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) that aired on Sunday. “Why shall we let the outside world know about [what HiSilicon has been achieved]? I don’t think so,” Ren said in response to a CCTV question regarding He and her memo that went viral online. “Those who come to receive prizes from the country are not true inventors, as [we will not] let the real inventors go to receive the awards,” Ren said. A recently published report from business news site Huxiu said that when HiSilicon became a fully-fledged division of Huawei in 2004, Ren promised to provide He with a staff of 20,000 and US$400 million in research and development budget every year to expand its chip design operations. At that time, Huawei still had a total of 30,000 employees as well as an annual research and development budget of less than US$1 billion. When Huawei moved to compete in the smartphone market years ago with its own brand of handsets, HiSilicon already figured as an important vehicle for the firm to enter the consumer chip business, according to The Paper , a Shanghai-based media outlet, in a report last week. HiSilicon, which saw revenue expand an estimated 34.2 per cent last year, is expected to surpass Taiwanese fabless semiconductor firm MediaTek to become the largest chip design company in Asia, according to the 2018 global Top 10 chip design ranking published by Digitimes Research in March. It said the income gap between HiSilicon and MediaTek is about US$300 million, but the Taiwanese company barely grew last year. Huawei’s day of reckoning arrives – but it has been preparing for almost a year With the US trade ban, HiSilicon is anticipated to supply the high-end semiconductor products needed by Huawei. US hi-tech suppliers, including Intel, Qualcomm and Xilinx have told their employees not to supply Huawei until further notice, according to a Bloomberg report last week. Software giant Microsoft Corp has followed Google’s lead and stopped accepting new orders from Huawei, following the US trade blacklist announcement, the South China Morning Post reported last Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. On Monday, Huawei clarified that the US$10 billion deal mentioned in the CCTV report referred to a failed US$7.5 billion deal to sell the company to Motorola in 2003. It did not provide further comments.