The founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, has said the US “underestimates” the telecom giant’s strength, and that conflict with America was inevitable in the quest to “stand on top of the world”.
Ren, speaking after Donald Trump declared a national emergency aimed at thwarting Huawei’s global 5G ambitions, told Chinese media: “The current practice of US politicians underestimates our strength.
“Huawei’s 5G will absolutely not be affected. In terms of 5G technologies, others won’t be able to catch up with Huawei in two or three years.
Striking a defiant tone after the company’s blacklisting, he was quoted by Chinese broadcaster CCTV as saying: “We have sacrificed ourselves and our families for our ideal, to stand on top of the world. To reach this ideal, sooner or later there will be conflict with the US.”
The telecoms manufacturer has become the focal point of a long-simmering trade war. It was officially added to a trade blacklist on Thursday after Trump issued an executive order to ban the technology and services of “foreign adversaries”. The move immediately led to restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with US companies.
Google confirmed on Monday it was restricting Huawei’s access to the Android operating system on which the Chinese firm’s mobile devices depend. Reuters reported on Sunday that Google had suspended all business with Huawei that required the transfer of hardware, software and technical services, except those publicly available.
But on Monday, the US temporarily eased some restrictions, in a sign of how the prohibitions on Huawei may have far-reaching and unintended consequences.
For the next 90 days, the US Commerce Department will allow Huawei to purchase American-made goods in order to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets.
“It appears the intention is to limit unintended impacts on third parties who use Huawei equipment or systems,” said Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce Department official. “It seems they’re trying to prevent network blackouts.”
However, Ren said on Tuesday: “The US 90-day temporary licence does not have much impact on us. We are ready.”
Half of chips used in Huawei equipment come from the US and the other half are made by the Chinese company, he said. “We cannot be isolated from the world,” Ren said. “We can also make the same chips as the US chips, but it doesn’t mean we won’t buy them.”
The Chinese firm’s top executive in the UK, Jeremy Thompson, said the US move against Huawei was a “cynically timed” blow in the escalating trade war. “The timing of this is to inflict maximum hurt on our organisation. We’re a football in between this trade war,” he told the BBC.
The Huawei confrontation has been building for years, as the company has raced to a huge advantage over rivals in next-generation 5G mobile technology.
US intelligence believes Huawei is backed by the Chinese military and that its equipment could provide Beijing’s intelligence services with a backdoor into the communications networks of rival countries.
For that reason, Washington has pushed its closest allies to reject Huawei technology, a significant challenge given the few alternatives for 5G.
The battle over Huawei has added to tensions in a trade war that has escalated between the world’s top two economies, with both sides exchanging steep increases in tariffs as negotiations have faltered.
Asked how long Huawei may face difficult times, Ren said: “You may need to ask Trump about this question, not me.”
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report