US 'underestimates' Huawei, says founder Ren Zhengfei

James Cook
Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei - © 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

Huawei's founder has warned the US that it is underestimating his company, as the technology business faces sanctions which block it from buying products from key suppliers.

Ren Zhengfei said that “the US government’s actions at the moment underestimate our capabilities,” according to Chinese media outlets.

Last week Huawei was added by President Donald Trump to an “Entity List,” which blocks US businesses from selling products and services to the companies unless they have permission from the government.

The increased sanctions mean that Google will be unable to offer the full version of its Android operating system to future Huawei phones. Instead, Huawei is likely to switch to the more limited open source version.

American officials say Huawei and other Chinese telecom equipment vendors are a security risk because they beholden to the ruling Communist Party. Huawei denies accusations.

The US controls "will have no impact within this company" and none on development of next-generation telecom technology, Ren said. He said some low-end business might be affected.

Huawei has stockpiled months worth of vital semiconductor chips which will allow it to continue manufacturing its smartphones without shipments from US-headquartered suppliers.

The company has also developed its own operating system as part of a contingency plan in development since 2012 for increased sanctions.

“We will not go through an extreme shortage of supplies. We have made sound preparations," said Huawei's 74-year old founder.

Huawei was handed a reprieve on Monday evening when the US government granted a 90-day for US companies including Google and internet providers to work with Huawei in order to keep networks online.

Mr Ren said on Tuesday that the 90-day reprieve “doesn’t mean much” for Huawei because it was already prepared for the sanctions.

The executive said that “we can make chips as good as those made by US companies.” However, he suggested that Huawei would prefer to continue purchasing US chips.

“We should grow together,” he said, “but if there is a supply shortage, we have a backup. In the ‘peace period’, half of our chips are from the US companies and half from Huawei. We cannot be isolated from the world."

“We always need US-developed chipsets, and we can’t exclude American products with a narrow mind,” he said.