The founder of Huawei has said there is “no way the US can crush” the company, in an exclusive interview with the BBC.
Ren Zhengfei described the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, as politically motivated.
The US is pursuing criminal charges against Huawei and Ms Meng, including money laundering, bank fraud and stealing trade secrets.
Huawei denies any wrongdoing.
Mr Ren spoke to the BBC’s Karishma Vaswani in his first international broadcast interview since Ms Meng was arrested – and dismissed the pressure from the US.
“There’s no way the US can crush us,” he said. “The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit.”
However, he acknowledged that the potential loss of custom could have a significant impact.
- Ren Zhengfei: Reclusive but confident
- Should we worry about Huawei?
- Who is Ren Zhengfei?
- Why Huawei matters in five charts
- What is 5G?
- Who is Meng Wanzhou?
What else did Mr Ren say about the US?
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the country’s allies against using Huawei technology, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them”.
Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned or blocked Huawei from supplying equipment for their future 5G mobile broadband networks, while Canada is reviewing whether the company’s products present a serious security threat.
Mr Ren warned that “the world cannot leave us because we are more advanced”.
“If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world.”
What did Mr Ren say about investment in the UK?
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has decided that any risk posed by using Huawei technology in UK telecoms projects can be managed.
Many of the UK’s mobile companies, including Vodafone, EE and Three, are working with Huawei to develop their 5G networks.
They are awaiting a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.
Commenting on the possibility of a UK ban, Mr Ren said Huawei “won’t withdraw our investment because of this. We will continue to invest in the UK.
“We still trust in the UK, and we hope that the UK will trust us even more.
“We will invest even more in the UK. Because if the US doesn’t trust us, then we will shift our investment from the US to the UK on an even bigger scale.”
What does Mr Ren think about his daughter’s arrest?
Mr Ren’s daughter Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested on 1 December in Vancouver at the request of the US, and is expected to be the subject of a formal extradition request.
In total, 23 charges are levelled against Huawei and Ms Weng. The charges are split across two indictments by the US Department of Justice.
The first covers claims Huawei hid business links to Iran – which is subject to US trade sanctions. The second includes the charge of attempted theft of trade secrets.
Mr Ren was clear in his opposition to the US accusations.
“Firstly, I object to what the US has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable.
“The US likes to sanction others, whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods.
“We object to this. But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.”
What did Mr Ren say about Chinese government spying?
Huawei, which is China’s largest private company, has been under scrutiny for its links to the Chinese government – with the US and others expressing concern its technology could be used by China’s security services to spy.
Under Chinese law, firms are compelled to “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work”.
But Mr Ren said that allowing spying was a risk he wouldn’t take.
“The Chinese government has already clearly said that it won’t install any backdoors. And we won’t install backdoors either.
“We’re not going to risk the disgust of our country and of our customers all over the world, because of something like this.
“Our company will never undertake any spying activities. If we have any such actions, then I’ll shut the company down.”
Is Huawei part of the Chinese state?
Analysis – Karishma Vaswani, BBC Asia business correspondent – Shenzhen
For a man known as reclusive and secretive, Ren Zhengfei seemed confident in the conviction that the business he’s built for the last 30 years can withstand the scrutiny from Western governments.
Mr Ren is right: the US makes up only a fraction of his overall business.
But where I saw his mood change was when I asked him about his links to the Chinese military and the government.
While he answered all of my questions, he refused to be drawn into a conversation on this, only to say that these were not facts, simply allegations – and insisted that political connections are not what has led Huawei to be successful today.
When I put to him the reports that his chairwoman up until last year, Sun Yafang, had once worked with China’s Ministry of State Security, he told me that her profile is up on the company’s corporate website and that he didn’t think it was “OK to suspect or guess where this person used to be”.
Still, some signs of close links between Mr Ren and the government were revealed during the course of our interview.
He also confirmed that there is a Communist Party committee in Huawei, but he said this is what all companies – foreign or domestic – operating in China must have in order to abide by the law.
Read Karishma’s blog: Ren Zhengfei: Reclusive but confident