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The billionaire Huawei founder defies facing an existential threat



Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei has provoked a defiant tone over US sanctions that jeopardize the survival of his company.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, the billionaire founder of China's largest technology company acknowledged that restrictions on Trump's exports will be reduced to two years. Huawei has struggled to build rivals such as Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj.

But the company would either increase its chip offer or find alternatives to maintain its edge on smartphones and 5G.

On May 17, the United States placed on the black list of Huawei – which accuse them of helping Beijing espionage – and cut off US software and components that it needs to produce its products.

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The ban is the world's largest provider of network equipment and the second smartphone manufacturer, just like preparing for the vault at the forefront of global technology. Their chip makers from America to Europe, while the global supply chain is compromised.

The ban can also disrupt the introduction of the global 5G wireless network, undermining the standard that is presented at the heart of everything from autonomous cars to the robot operation.

Ren continued Huawei's ability to create their own solutions – given the time. For years, he designed his own chips, which he now uses in many of his smartphones. It even develops its own operating software for running phones and servers.

Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei:

SUPPLIED

Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei: "Being able to grow in the toughest combat environment, it just reflects how big we are."

The CEO, however, rejected questions about how quickly Huawei could increase these internal endeavors to replace. Failure could affect the rapidly growing business of consumers and even kill urgent efforts such as cloud servers.

"It depends on how fast our repairers can fix the plane," said Ren, who relaxedly appeared in a white jacket over a pink shirt, referring to questions about his company's status. "No matter what materials they use, whether it's metal, fabric or paper, the goal is to keep the plane in the sky."

Ren has moved from a hermit to the media for a period of several months while struggling to save the $ 100 billion company he founded.

The 74-year-old billionaire has emerged from virtual isolation after arresting his eldest daughter and chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou as part of a wider Huawei investigation. Since then, he has become a central figure in the US-China conflict, potentially the most important episode that has shaped world affairs since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As Ren said in January, when the world's biggest economies fight for power, nothing will survive in their way. His company is a "seed sesame" between two great powers, he said.

Ren emerged from virtual isolation after arresting his eldest daughter and financial director Huawei Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

DARRYL DYCK / AP

Ren emerged from virtual isolation after arresting his eldest daughter and financial director Huawei Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

"This can bring a Chinese national champion to the knee," said Chris Lane, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "If China closes all Apple plants, the United States would be very upset. This is a similar move.

Ren had a lot to deal with lately. His company is increasingly under fire, surrounded by US efforts to get key allies to ban its equipment. The US attack has helped to crystallize fears about the increasing power of Huawei in areas from wireless infrastructure and semiconductors to consumer devices.

Then the black list came. Huawei seems to have predicted this possibility since mid-2018, when similar sanctions threatened to sink rival ZTE Corp.

"We've made some really nice chips," said Ren, the legendary figure in his home country thanks to the way he built Huawei from scratch at a global power plant. "Being able to grow in the most difficult combat environment, it just reflects how big we are."

Last week, US President Donald Trump said Huawei could become part of the US-China trade agreement, provoking speculation that it was a chip for negotiations in sensitive negotiations. But Ren said he was not a politician. "It's a big joke," he mocked. "How are we connected to the Chinese-American trade?"

If Trump calls, "I will ignore him, who can he negotiate with? If he calls me, I may not respond, but he does not have my number."

In fact, Ren did not pull any blows in search of a man he called "the great president" just a few months before. "I see his tweets and I think it's funny because they are contradictory," he added. "How did he become a master of art deal?"

US President Donald Trump says Huawei could become part of the US-China trade agreement, fueling speculation that it was a contractual chip in sensitive negotiations.

AP

US President Donald Trump says Huawei could become part of the US-China trade agreement, fueling speculation that it was a contractual chip in sensitive negotiations.

Beijing itself is not without options. Some speculate that China could revenge the ban on Huawei – which can be extended to some of the most promising AI firms – by forbidding to ban most of the largest US corporations in their own markets.

Apple could give up almost a third of its profits if China bans its products, Goldman Sachs analysts say.

Ren said he would oppose such a move against his American rival.

"It will not happen first, and secondly, if that happens, I will be the first to protest," said Ren. "Apple is my teacher, it's at the forefront. As a student, why go to my teacher? Never."

At the heart of the Trump Campaign, there is a suspicion that Huawei helps Beijing spy while leading China's ambitions to become a technology superpower. For years, he was charged with theft of intellectual property in lawsuits filed by American companies from Cisco Systems and Motorola with T-Mobile US.

Critics say that such anftership helped Huawei land in the upper echelon technology – but Ren laughed at this premise.

"I've styled American technology since tomorrow, and the US does not even have these technologies," he said. "We are in front of the United States. If we were behind, there would be no need for Trump to attack us."

Huawei is increasingly under fire, surrounded by US efforts to get key allies to ban its equipment.

Getty Images

Huawei is increasingly under fire, surrounded by US efforts to get key allies to ban its equipment.

Ren's ease of behavior undoes the way in which he constantly avoids attention. The military engineer, who became an entrepreneur, turned this year into a command performance in the public, especially for someone who is rarely talking to foreign media since Huawei created. T

The re-emergence of the withdrawn CEO – who spoke to foreign media before January last year – highlights the depth of the attack on Huawei, the largest symbol of Chinese growing technological power.

Ren again dismissed speculation that his company was in any way a duty to the Communist Party, although he stated that his loyalty was ultimately the ruling body of the country.

US lawmakers are not convinced. That's why the US Department of Commerce has broken the flow of American technology – from chips to software and everything in between.

A symbolic figure in Chinese business circles, the billionaire remains a unique voice in the conflict that will help define the global landscape. Ren, who says he has survived the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, thanks in part to his sought-after expertise in high-precision tools, remains a big believer that Huawei's technology will get that day.

His company today produces more sales than online giants Alibaba and Tencent together. In 2018 Huawei took over Apple in the sale of smartphones, a triumph that improved its technical credentials.

His quotes are adorned by the walls of the feeding halls in the Huawei campus on the outskirts of the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, and employees still talk about him with respect. The company's report for 2018 shows that it has a 1.14 percent stake, giving it a net worth of US2b, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Ren, who survived the great famine of Mao Zedong and found Huawei in 1987 with 21,000 yuan, said Huawei will do what he needs to survive. It will ignore noise while doing its job the best it can. In the meantime, pressure is forced to take a tribute. At one point during the interview, Rehn's steadfast manners were broken – at least for a minute.

"The US has never bought products from us," he said, briskly. "Even if the US wants to buy our products in the future, I may not sell them. There is no need to negotiate."


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