Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei has taken the uncommon step of briefing the media in response to the recent focus on the security of the company’s products and its relationship with the Chinese government.
The company founder has not given press interviews for years, but it was suggested that he may begin to provide briefings more frequently. In his statement at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, Ren noted that Huawei was pursuing greater transparency.
Following the lead of the US, several Western countries have recently introduced restrictions or flat-out bans on using Huawei equipment in 5G network build-outs, citing security concerns. In December last year, the company’s rotating chairman Ken Hu implored governments to offer evidence for their concerns so that Huawei could adequately address them.
Since Chinese individuals and companies are required to cooperate with the Communist Party of China (CPC) on matters relating to national security, overseas governments are concerned that this could lead to Huawei installing “back door” access upon the CPC’s request for espionage purposes.
Ren said that Huawei had no obligation to provide any such access, and added that the company had never been asked to supply a customer’s data to the Chinese government, saying “we would definitely say no to any such request.” Under the current law, the CPC would need to file a specific case to gain access to any of Huawei’s customer data, rather than Huawei having to take action to block government inquests.
When asked about the relationship between Huawei and the CPC, Ren responded: “I love my country and I support the CPC, but I would never do anything to harm another country or another individual.”
Ren maintained that Huawei was a customer-focused enterprise that offers demonstrably secure networks, and noted that the concerns about security are based on suspicions rather than evidence. He also noted that the company would continue to make overtures towards the US market, where it is currently banned from selling – largely due to a small number of senators who consider the company a security risk.
On the US, Ren said: “We don’t know much about each other, and don’t have channels to communicate with the US government.” He added that Huawei would sell its equipment in other markets that could serve as “examples to prove we are trustworthy.”
However, he did note that China’s ongoing trade war with the US has not had a dramatic effect on Huawei, with the company forecasting 20% revenue growth for this year. He expects the vendor to fare better than compatriot ZTE, saying: “we might face difficulties and challenges. But what happened to ZTE I believe will not happen to Huawei.”
Ren pointed to the 170 countries – and 3 billion people - using Huawei equipment, and noted that the company performs strongly in terms of network reliability and security, saying: “As long as we develop compelling products, I believe we will have customers. What matters is working to improve internal management, and improve products and services: that’s the way to address challenges of the changing world.”
He also stated that the US and China diverging on standards for 5G technology would be detrimental in the long run as it would increase deployment costs, saying: “unified standards, which the technology community has worked hard to forge, are a good example for the entire world to move to a more intelligent world. Personally, I’m a supporter of strong global standards.”
There was one notable area about which Ren was tight-lipped: last month’s arrest in Canada of Huawei CFO – and his daughter – Meng Wanzhou. He merely said that since the case was ongoing he was not able to provide an official comment, but noted “as a father I miss her very much.”