As more Western governments turn their backs on Huawei and blocked the use of its pioneering 5G technology over concerns about its close ties to Chinese intelligence, Huawei's reclusive founder Ren Zhengfei has broken a years-long silence to speak out during a meeting with foreign reporters at the company's headquarters in Shenzen on Tuesday.
Ren's comments come after a host of senior executives, including rotating chairman Ken Hu, have denied rumors about the company's complicity in Ministry of State Security espionage efforts. Notably, Ren met with reporters a few days after Polish authorities arrested a Chinese national and Huawei executive on espionage charges, prompting Huawei to fire the man.
In what was his first interview with the foreign press since 2015, Ren repudiated accusations that Huawei takes orders from Beijing, while praising President Trump (who once suggested he might intervene to pardon Ren's daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada last month and will likely be extradited to the US) and disclosing that he owns only a 1.14% stake in Huawei (a firm that is privately owned by its employees) - putting his net worth at close to $2 billion.
According to the FT, Meng, a former officer in the People's LIberation Army, said the government had never asked him to provide "improper information" and that he missed his daughter "very much."
And although he loves China and supports the CPC, he would never do anything to harm another nation.
"I still love my country, I support the Communist party, but I will never do anything to harm any country in the world," he said, echoing earlier dismissals of allegations that Huawei was involved in espionage.
"Huawei firmly stands on the side of customers when it comes to cyber security and privacy," Ren said.
In light of Trump's comments about possibly pardoning Meng if it would help resolve the US-China trade dispute, Ren offered effusive praise for Trump, saying he is a "great" leader and that his tax cuts have been good for the US economy, according to Bloomberg.
"Huawei is only a sesame seed in the trade conflict between China and the U.S.," Ren said from the company’s campus in Shenzhen. "Trump is a great president. He dares to massively cut taxes, which will benefit business. But you have to treat well the companies and countries so that they are willing to invest in the U.S. and the government will be able to collect enough tax."
Ultimately, Ren said he wanted to spread a message about the importance of "collaboration" and "shared success". And despite the pushback against Huawei in the developed world, Ren still expects the company's revenues to swell to $125 billion by 2025, from $100 billion on Tuesday.
“The message to the US I want to communicate is: collaboration and shared success. In our world of high tech, it’s increasingly impossible for any single company or country to sustain or to support the world’s needs,” Mr Ren said.
The backlash against Huawei followed a landmark year for the company. In 2018, it overtook Apple as the world's second largest smartphone maker...
...The company also generates more sales than Alibaba Group and Tencent combined.
Its leadership in 5G remains a point of envy for US telecoms companies. According to the Treasury Department, Huawei holds about 1/10th of the patents for 5G technology.
“I’m a strong supporter of the world building a unified technology standard,” Ren said.
Ren officially retired from the firm in 2011, after founding it in 1987 with three other former Army officers. He used strong words to reject the notion that Huawei does the bidding of the Chinese government describing these claims as an "affront."
As tensions between Huawei and the US continue to simmer, we imagine this strategic PR blitz from the typically quiet company isn't over yet.