Ren Zhengfei, the founder and chief executive of Chinese technology firm Huawei, said in an interview Tuesday he had long expected conflict with the U.S. government because his company “sacrificed individuals and families only for the goal to stand at the top of the world.”
Ren spoke to several Chinese communist regime outlets in the aftermath of President Donald Trump signing an executive order preventing U.S. companies from doing business with foreign companies that pose a threat to U.S. national security. While the order did not name Huawei, experts considered the telecommunications giant the prime target of the legislation.
“We have sacrificed individuals and families only for the goal to stand at the top of the world,” Caixin, a Chinese state outlet, quoted Ren as saying. “For this ideal, there will be conflict with the United States sooner or later.”
“It is wrong to say that purchasing Huawei’s products equals being patriotic … don’t link that with politics,” he reportedly said. “At Huawei, we won’t resort to nationalism and populism, because that is harmful to our country.”
Ren also addressed the Trump administration’s decision to place Huawei on an “entity list” that prevents U.S. companies from doing business with it without a license, cutting off Huawei’s supply of microchips, which it often buys from American corporations. The combined measures against Huawei resulted in Google banning Huawei from using Android software on its phones, but the ban lifted after the White House gave Huawei a 90-day license to give it time to find replacements for the American products it depends on.
Huawei buys an estimated $11 billion worth of products used to build its mobile phones from the United States a year.
“The US 90-day temporary license does not have much impact on us, we are ready,” Ren said. “Huawei had made preparations for extreme situations even before the Chinese Lunar New Year [February].” He predicted that Huawei’s company growth would slow if the United States banned it from the country permanently, but assured reporters that Huawei would bounce back, as it had a contingency plan in place to replace the business it does with America.
Ren added that he did not blame U.S. companies for the restrictions and would continue doing business with them so long as Trump allowed it.
“Don’t point your fingers at U.S. firms. They have to obey the law — as required in the Entity List — because the U.S. is a country ruled by law,” he said. “As long as the U.S. government allows U.S. companies to export the components, Huawei will continue to buy while sticking to its own research and development.”
Huawei is technically a privately owned company because it is in Ren’s hands. Like all Chinese corporations, however, it is controlled by the Communist Party. Ren is a longtime member of the Party and benefits greatly from the Chinese government propaganda machine promoting his company. Ren joined the Party in 1978 and is a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“I joined the military during China’s Cultural Revolution. At that time, there was chaos almost everywhere, including in agriculture and the industry,” Ren said in an interview in January. At the time, he insisted that his membership in the Party had no impact on Huawei as a business.
“Some people in the West believe that Huawei’s equipment is stamped with some sort of ideology. That’s as silly as people smashing textile machines back during the industrial revolution, as they thought advanced textile machines would disrupt the world,” he said.
Chinese propaganda outlets effusively praised Ren for his remarks on Tuesday.
“Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei on Tuesday displayed extraordinary calms [sic] and confidence in response to questions surrounding the escalation of tension between his company and the US government,” the Global Times, a state-operated newspaper, proclaimed. “By many standards, Ren’s remarks were stunning in his objectivity and global vision, and his company’s strategic confidence should be a model for other Chinese companies to learn from and refer to when going global.”
The Times also attempted to argue that the U.S. bans on Huawei doing business with the United States would somehow benefit the company by forcing it to produce its own components.
“Once the world realizes that Huawei’s development still continues, everyone will know it is useless for the US to engage in a technical blockade and Chinese technology companies cannot be hindered,” the Global Times said in an editorial Tuesday. “The US is playing with fire. If it insists on banning Huawei for one or two years, the weaker US technology companies will see an impact first as they will find themselves being replaced by Chinese suppliers.”
Once they are replaced, it will be very difficult to reenter the East Asian industrial chain. This is why it is so important for Americans to bring the manufacturing and industry chain back to the US,” the piece concluded.