Huawei’s Ren Zhengfei: US won’t crush us

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei has taken a more combative stance in the ongoing row over the firm’s alleged links to the Chinese intelligence services

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei has used an exclusive interview with the BBC to once again deny that the Chinese network supplier is now or ever has aided and abetted the activities of Chinese intelligence services in western countries, and said he will stand firm in the face of pressure from the US government.

“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.

“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,” said Ren.

The usually reticent Ren has been actively engaging with global media in recent weeks – on 15 January he held a lengthy and wide-ranging roundtable with western media in China, and yesterday he gave a rare broadcast interview to the BBC, his first since the arrest of his daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, in Canada.

However, whereas before Ren took a conciliatory line, expressing his appreciation to the Canadian authorities for their “humane management” of the case and saying he trusted in the judicial systems of Canada and the US, this time he made his displeasure plain to see.

“First, I object to what the US has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable,” he said. “The US likes to sanction others, whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods.”

Following recent news that the British government may break with its Five Eyes surveillance allies (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US) and take a softer stance on including Huawei’s equipment in core national communications networks, Ren signalled that Huawei would not withdraw its investment from the UK, even if the UK was to enact a similar ban to the US – which bars it from federal contracts.

“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,” he said.

Earlier in February, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned that the US would downgrade military and intelligence cooperation with allied countries that chose to maintain links with Huawei, which may include the UK.

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