Huawei executive claims its private-company status means it's not controlled by China’s government

Huawei
A Huawei executive said "We would not like to be a pawn in negotiations between two countries.” (FierceTelecom)

SHENZHEN—A top Huawei executive said Wednesday that the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to blacklist Huawei in May was “made hastily with interference from the political side” in Washington.

David Wang, executive director of the Huawei board and a 22-year veteran of the company, also objected that the Commerce decision came down May 16 “without a proper hearing.”

Commerce added Huawei to its Entity List, which identifies organizations and individuals considered to be a significant risk to U.S. security and foreign policy. The designation effectively bans the company from buying components from U.S. companies without government approval. However, Commerce has given some exemptions to the ban for 90 days.

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Huawei officials have previously complained that the listing was not based on facts. Wang elevated the company’s concerns in a two-hour press briefing with four U.S. reporters at the company’s headquarters campus in Shenzhen, China. An interpreter translated Wang’s comments in Chinese into English.

RELATED: Commerce Dept. bans Huawei, 70 affiliates from sourcing U.S. components

Wang spoke in measured tones, occasionally gesturing from his seat behind a table. Several times he praised the U.S. for being a global leader in enforcing the rule of law, but he said that quality was missing in its recent treatment of Huawei.

He also stressed repeatedly that Huawei is a private company, 100% employee-owned and not under the influence of China’s ruling Communist Party, nor the recipient of government favors nor special treatment. He said he personally is not a member of the Communist Party, although his wife is a member. He added with a smile “that we don’t have a party cell in my family.”

Because Huawei is a private company and independent of the government and works successfully in many western countries, “to an extent Huawei is not that much liked here in China. … We’ve created jobs and pay a huge amount of taxes here in China,” he added.

Huawei’s success as a telecommunications product provider to carriers came partly through the “sweat and tears” of its employees, which now number more than 180,000 in more than 170 countries, Wang said. “We went from a follower to a leader...entering the international market in 2000. It is a sign of the pace of globalization.”

Reaction to Trump

When Wang was asked specifically about his reaction to tweets and comments by President Trump concerning Huawei, he responded, “Now President Trump in the U.S. dislikes us. Huawei is against entry to the Entity List but we always comply with the laws and regulations in countries” where Huawei operates, including the U.S., Wang said.

Wang called on the U.S. to treat Huawei more the way the U.K. does, focusing on cybersecurity. “Let politics be politics and let cyber security be cybersecurity,” he said. “We would not like to be a pawn in negotiations between two countries.”

RELATED: Huawei offers to meet with U.S. cybersecurity officials

When Huawei was added to the Entity List, Wang said he remained “quite calm,” adding that he had long ago led his team to prepare for such an occurrence, just as it has prepared for a variety of difficulties and risks. One preparation Huawei has taken is to “not become dependent on a single country or a single supplier” for its business. “Even if we are down to zero, we will still ensure our business continuity,” he said.

He said he hopes Huawei can create a strong communications channel with the U.S. even though geopolitics has caused trade tensions between the U.S. and China. “We would not like to be a pawn in negotiations between two countries,” Wang said. “We also would like to have effective communications [even though] the allegations are not based on logic, facts and evidence.”

China, itself, is reported to be currently working on its own "unreliable entity list," which is expected to include foreign firms, organizations and individuals that the Chinese government claims engage in activities such as violating contracts, cutting off supplies for noncommercial reasons, and not obeying market rules. 

Criticism of Huawei that comes from the U.S. and the Commerce Department has apparently caused confusion and concern for many long-time Huawei employees. “At first I was quite angry, but later thought it was unfair,” said Edward Zhou, vice president of global public affairs for Huawei, in an interview after Wang’s remarks. He has worked in several different jobs over 22 years at Huawei.

Zhou called the Entity List designation “pure politics … thanks to Trump.”

“If we can survive this, we can say we are a great company, but I don’t think it’s safe to say that,” Zhou added.

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