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Ren Zhengfei Huawei’s CEO

Huawei founder unconcerned about US, says firm ‘can survive further attacks’

Image credit: reuters

Huawei’s blacklisting by the US did not have a “significant” impact on the firm’s business, its founder has said in a rare public appearance at a panel discussion during Davos 2020.

Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and CEO, said his firm had been developing “backup plans” for some time as a security measure against possible retaliation by the US.

In May 2019, the Trump administration added the Chinese company to its “entity list”, effectively blocking it from working with American firms including Google, which makes the Android mobile OS used on Huawei smartphones, and Arm, whose architecture underpins most chips used in its low-power mobile devices.

While it was cleared to work with Arm again in October, paving the way for further development of its Kirin processors, Google has remained out of bounds, a move that has effectively killed off Huawei's smartphone business in the West, as they are not compatible with the Play Store and other key Android services.

“This year the US might further escalate their campaign against Huawei, but I feel the impact on our business would not be very significant,” Zhengfei said.

He added that his company never had a strong sense of “security” from America and has therefore been spending “hundreds of billions” on developing its own “plan B’s” in a thinly veiled reference to its Harmony OS which has been developed for phones and IoT devices.

“I think we are more confident that we can survive further attacks,” he said.

Asked whether the US backlash would see the world shift into two competing “tech ecosystems” emerging from the West and China, he said that scientific “truth” would always overcome political divisions and that he believed knowledge sharing would continue.

Zhengfei also weighed into the debate about AI taking over people’s jobs saying it was “a social issue, not a technical issue” that “needs to be addressed”.

He added that increasing fears over the use of AI are unfounded and that the “technology explosion” is a good thing for humanity but “clear boundaries [need to be set] in terms of where AI can be applied.”

The UK has been deliberating for months over whether to use Huawei for the construction of its 5G networks due to its links with the Chinese state.

Last week, senior security figures in the UK Government have said it is likely that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will defy the US and open Britain’s 5G networks up to Huawei’s participation.

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