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HUAWEI founder breaks years-long public silence to talk company security

HUAWEI founder Ren Zhengfei recently spoke for the first time publically since 2015 in order to discuss his company's security practices.

Published onJanuary 15, 2019

  • HUAWEI founder Ren Zhengfei recently spoke for the first time publically since 2015.
  • Zhengfei made statements surrounding HUAWEI security, President Donald J. Trump, and HUAWEI’s alleged ties to the Chinese government.
  • HUAWEI is facing an on-going crisis when it comes to its security reputation, and it hopes Zhengfei’s statements will assuage fears.

Although 74-year-old Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei is still active within the ranks of the company, he has spent the last three years out of the public eye. Recently, he broke that silence to deliver a roundtable briefing with both domestic and international reporters, via Bloomberg.

As one would expect, HUAWEI’s security reputation was the hot topic of the event.

Zhengfei’s press talk underscores the tough year HUAWEI has had when it comes to public relations, security, and company expansion. HUAWEI bringing out “the big guns” in the form of Zhengfei — a legendary figure in both Chinese business and China at large — illuminates how seriously the company is planning on fixing its image in 2019.

HUAWEI poised to spend billions to fix its bad security reputation

HUAWEI has long faced a reputation of alleged ties to the Chinese government, which makes Western business and governments nervous that HUAWEI equipment could be used as tools for Chinese spying. The company has categorically denied any such allegations and is quick to point out that no definitive proof of these alleged ties has ever come to light.

Regardless, this hasn’t stopped major countries — including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and more — from issuing full or partial bans on using HUAWEI equipment. In the U.S. in particular, HUAWEI networking equipment and smartphones are essentially non-existent.

'HUAWEI firmly stands on the side of customers when it comes to cybersecurity and privacy.' -- HUAWEI founder Ren Zhengfei

“HUAWEI firmly stands on the side of customers when it comes to cybersecurity and privacy,” Zhengfei said. “I love my country, I support the Communist Party. But I will not do anything to harm the world. I don’t see a close connection between my personal political beliefs and the businesses of HUAWEI.”

Zhengfei in that last part is likely referring to the well-known fact that he had an earlier career with the People’s Liberation Army in China, which is one of the reasons for the accusations of HUAWEI’s ties to the Chinese government.

In regards to the problems HUAWEI faces in the U.S. — particularly from President Donald J. Trump — Zhengfei offered kind words and support. “Trump is a great president. He dares to massively cut taxes, which will benefit business. But you have to treat well the companies and countries so that they are willing to invest in the U.S. and the government will be able to collect enough tax,” he said.

He also made it clear that HUAWEI can survive any sales bans, like those in the U.S. “HUAWEI is not a public company, we don’t need a beautiful earnings report,” he said. “If they don’t want HUAWEI to be in some markets, we can scale down a bit. As long as we can survive and feed our employees, there’s a future for us.”

Currently, Zhengfei’s eldest daughter — Meng Wanzhou — is in Canada facing extradition to the U.S. on allegations of helping defraud banks to avoid sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, in Poland, a HUAWEI sales executive was arrested on spying charges. HUAWEI fired this employee over the weekend.

NEXT: Huawei’s Android 9 Pie-based EMUI 9.0 rolling out globally

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