Huawei founder Reng Zhengfei has said the company has no plans to halt investment in the UK and has refuted allegations made against the company of fraud and espionage.
The company is facing multiple challenges on different fronts, with several nations expressing concerns about the use of Huawei kit in their telecommunications infrastructure.
The US and Australia are the only notable examples of Huawei gear being effectively banned in the rollout of 5G, but others are being placed under pressure by the US to follow suit.
Meanwhile, Zhengfei’s daughter and company CFO Meng Wanzhou is currently being held in Canada as US officials attempt to extradite her to face charges of fraud related to alleged dealings with Iran.
- What is 5G? Everything you need to know
- GSMA suggests Huawei talks at MWC 2019
- These could be the first 5G phones
These events have brought the normally reclusive Zhengfei back into the public eye. Last month, he held his first briefing with foreign reporters for four years and now in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC he has reiterated Huawei’s belief that the US’s actions are politically motivated and once again denied any links with the Chinese government.
“There’s no way the US can crush us,” he is quoted as saying. “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.”
The main basis for these security fears is that Huawei could be required to install backdoors into its kit that could facilitate spying. Part of the reason behind the apparent mistrust is Zhengfei himself.
Prior to founding Huawei in the 1980s, he served as an engineer in the Chinese military and attended the 1982 National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. He told reporters he was invited as a reward for a device he invented while in the army.
“The Chinese government has already clearly said that it won’t install any backdoors,” he continued. “And we won’t install backdoors either. We’re not going to risk the disgust of our country and of our customers all over the world, because of something like this.
“Our company will never undertake any spying activities. If we have any such actions, then I’ll shut the company down.”
Huawei has repeatedly denied such accusations, pointing out that it works with security agencies around the world and that it sells products to more than 500 operators in 170 countries without issue. This includes the UK, where BT, EE, Vodafone and Three are all customers.
In the UK, the use of Huawei kit is subject to a specialist monitoring body, and UK operators are waiting for the outcome of a government review to see if they will continue to be allowed to use the company’s gear.
There is unlikely to be any enthusiasm for a ban among customers who value Huawei for its innovations and fear a reduced pool of suppliers will increase prices.
Huawei and its customers will be buoyed by reports that the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) believes there is no reason why it can’t mitigate any perceived risk.
Zhengfei says that even if there is a ban, Huawei will still invest in the UK and could even increase its interest should the US continue to be hostile.
“[We] won’t withdraw our investment because of this,” he told the BBC. “We will continue to invest in the UK. 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.”