Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei says the US government’s campaign against the Chinese tech company risks damaging America’s international reputation.
“If this US administration always treats other countries, companies or individuals in a ferocious way, then no one would dare invest in the United States,” Ren said in an interview Wednesday with CNN at Huawei’s headquarters in the city of Shenzhen.
The US government has stepped up its efforts in recent months to persuade allies to block the use of Huawei’s telecommunications equipment in 5G wireless networks, alleging that the Chinese government could use it for spying. Huawei has denied any of its products pose a security risk and called on the Trump administration to provide evidence to back up its claims.
Ren, who is also Huawei’s CEO, was full of praise for the US economy, describing it as a driver of innovation. But he said his company, the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker, was being treated unfairly.
That’s why it decided to make its most aggressive move yet to combat the American pressure. It filed a lawsuit against the US government last week challenging a recent law barring federal agencies from using Huawei products.
“We chose to have our voice heard at this moment because the US government considers us a threat to national security,” Ren said. “They have to have evidence. Everybody in the world is talking about cybersecurity and they are singling out Huawei.”
“What about Ericsson? What about Cisco? Don’t they have cybersecurity issues?” he asked, referring to top Western makers of networking equipment. “Why is Huawei being singled out?”
Ren, 74, has built Huawei up over three decades into a company that makes more than $100 billion in annual revenue and sells about as many smartphones around the world as Apple (AAPL). Its success has made him a billionaire.
He rejects any suggestion that the company is under the control of the Chinese government, insisting it’s a private company that’s owned by its employees. Ren said he would rather shut down the business than submit to demands from Beijing to use Huawei equipment for spying.
Trump’s ‘tactics are all wrong’
Huawei’s pushback has failed to deter the Trump administration from pursuing its campaign against the company. Shortly after Huawei filed its lawsuit last week, the US Ambassador to Germany sent the German government a letter warning that the United States would limit Berlin’s access to American intelligence if Huawei is allowed to help build 5G networks in the country.
Those are the kind of moves that Ren says will hurt the United States’ image with international investors as a great place to do business.
He described President Donald Trump as a great leader for cutting US taxes for businesses, but urged him to rethink his approach toward foreign countries and businesses.
“His tactics are all wrong,” Ren said. “If he intimidates a country today, threatens a company tomorrow or wantonly arrests someone, then no one would dare invest in the United States.”