Huawei founder: US underestimated our power

Published : 21:04, May 21, 2019 | Updated : 21:08, May 21, 2019

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei (right) is seen in this October 2015 photo showing around the London offices of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to Chinese President Xi Jinping (left). REUTERS/file photoAfter the United States temporarily eased trade restrictions on China's Huawei to minimize disruption for its customers, the world's largest telecoms equipment maker said the move meant little because it was already prepared for US action.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei on Tuesday told Chinese state media that the reprieve bore little meaning for the company as it had been making preparations for such a scenario.
"The US government's actions at the moment underestimate our capabilities," Ren said in an interview with CCTV, according to a transcript published by the Chinese state broadcaster.
The US Commerce Department blocked Huawei Technologies from buying US goods last week, a major escalation in the trade war between the world's two top economies, saying the firm was involved in activities contrary to national security.
The two countries increased import tariffs on each other's goods over the past two weeks after US President Donald Trump said China had reneged on earlier commitments made during months of negotiations.
On Monday, the Commerce Department granted Huawei a license to buy US goods until Aug. 19 to maintain existing telecoms networks and provide software updates to Huawei smartphones, a move intended to give telecom operators that rely on Huawei time to make other arrangements.
Huawei is still prohibited from buying American-made hardware and software to make new products without further, hard-to-obtain licenses.
The temporary license suggests changes to Huawei's supply chain may have immediate, far-reaching and unintended consequences for its customers.
The Commerce Department said it will evaluate whether to extend the license period beyond 90 days.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. LinkdInAPPLE PRAISE
Ren put up a brave front on Tuesday, reiterating claims that the restrictions will not hurt Huawei's prospects and that no other company will be able to catch up with Huawei in 5G technology in the next two to three years.
China was nevertheless still "far behind" the United States in technology, he said.
Chip experts have called out Huawei on its claims that it could ensure a steady supply chain without US help, saying the technology it buys from American companies would be "hard to replace".
Nearly 16 percent of Huawei's spending on components in 2018 went to US firms including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron Technology, analysts said.
Ren said Huawei was at odds with the US government, not US firms, and in a comment that trended on Chinese social media, he praised Apple Inc's iPhones, saying he gifted the American firm's devices to family members.
"Apple has a good business ecosystem ... We cannot think narrow-mindedly that loving Huawei equals loving its phones."
US firms could lose up to $56.3 billion in export sales over five years from stringent export controls on technologies involving Huawei or otherwise, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation said in a report. Missed opportunities threatened as many as 74,000 jobs, the foundation said.
Huawei is currently on the receiving end of a US government accusation that it engaged in bank fraud to obtain embargoed US goods and services in Iran and move money via the international banking system. Huawei has pleaded not guilty.
The trade blacklist has added to its woes, following which Alphabet Inc's Google suspended some business with Huawei, Reuters reported on Sunday citing a person familiar with the matter, raising worries about the Chinese firm's smartphones that run on Google's Android operating system.
Monday's temporary license is likely to allow companies such as Google to continue providing service and support, including software updates or patches, to Huawei smartphones that were available to the public on or before May 16.
"Keeping phones up to date and secure is in everyone's best interests and this temporary license allows us to continue to provide software updates and security patches to existing models for the next 90 days," a Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email on Tuesday.
The license also allows Huawei to engage in the development of standards for fifth-generation (5G) telecom networks.