SHENZHEN, China – Ren Zhengfei, the founder and CEO of Chinese tech giant Huawei, admitted on Wednesday that United States President Donald Trump’s campaign against the company had hit him “hard” and forced him to postpone his retirement to defend the company’s image.
In a meeting with media outlets – including EFE – at the company headquarters in Shenzhen, 75-year-old Ren dismissed the possibility that the ongoing struggle between China and the US would lead to further divisions.
“Today, we are in a digital world where one cannot make divisions like the Berlin Wall. It would be very bad for the United States, whose companies are the best but will not be able to sell their products in another bloc which would cause them great losses,” Ren said.
The head of China’s flagship firm in innovation stressed that artificial intelligence was set to become increasingly important in future and many companies, including Huawei, would make it very affordable.
“I have a lot of confidence in AI because it’s a very effective instrument to improve productivity,” he said, adding that the technology, along with 5G, would allow developments like “self-running farms and automated mines.”
Ren said AI would reduce the number of employees and working hours for companies, which in turn would help people spend more time on art or leisure, leading to “fewer labor disputes.”
Since the US put Huawei on a business blacklist of firms considered a threat to the country, Ren has stepped up media interactions to counter Washington’s allegations.
He speculated that Trump might be “regretting” starting a trade and technological dispute with China.
“I don’t understand why the US and China entered into a trade war, I don’t know if he (Trump) is regretting having unleashed the war a little. I don’t even know if he himself believes that his country is going to win it,” he said.
The executive said the US was “not in a position to criticize others,” referring to allegations that Beijing might be using Huawei’s technology to repress ethnic minority Uighurs in the state of Xinjiang in western China.
“The US also sells arms to governments in the Middle East,” he said, adding that an automobile manufacturer could not guarantee “where the car ends up or who drives it.”
The CEO also played down the possibility of Huawei facing more difficulties in case the US decided not to extend a license that allows American companies to continue doing business with it.
He acknowledged that manufacturing a processor “is a very complicated task,” but said they had been able to develop their own chips, not only for the central processor but also graphic and Artificial Intelligence ones.
“The extensions do not matter to us anymore, the company can continue growing,” he said, stressing that Harmony, an operating system developed by Huawei, was completely an open-source code that all countries would be able to use to protect their digital autonomy.
Ren said even without US companies such as Google, they would be able to continue offering their clients “the best technological solutions,” while admitting that they would prefer not to exclude their US providers, from whom they still buy components in “large quantities.”
“Developing components ourselves is not a long term strategy, we are very committed to globalization,” the CEO said.
With regard to Latin American Countries, Ren said Chinese investment could serve as a “ladder” through which the region could leave the “middle-income trap,” a theory put forward by some economists about why some countries cannot develop further.
“For many years, Latin America has been the backyard of the US and they want to control the region. Now, with China investing there, their sovereignty is not affected because the Chinese don’t interfere,” he said.
Ren denied that the government of Spain could be losing confidence in his company after reports that the Spanish defense ministry was advising its employees against the use of Huawei devices for intranet.
“We are convinced that Spain’s 5G network will the best in Europe, will be an example for the entire continent,” the CEO said, adding that Spanish telecom company, Telefonica, had his full backing to launch Huawei’s 5G network in the entire Latin America.
Ren also downplayed the arrest of his daughter and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the request of the US, claiming it had not affected him much and that he had not visited her in the North American country, where she remains out on bail.
When asked about his opinion about the internet situation in China, where access to many western websites is restricted, the man behind one of the leading providers of mobile internet services worldwide waved off the question by saying “I don’t have an opinion because I don’t follow the internet.”