Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei.
  • Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei gave a rare interview to the BBC on Monday, declaring that there's "no way the US can crush us."
  • Ren's daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December last year.
  • He said the arrest was "politically motivated" and "is not acceptable."
  • The defiant tone of the interview marks a change in rhetoric. In January, Ren tried to ease tensions between the US and Huawei, saying Donald Trump was "a great president."

The founder of the Chinese phone giant at the heart of a political fight with the US told the BBC that there's "no way the US can crush us."

Ren Zhengfei is the founder of Huawei, a company which has come under intense fire from the US in recent months amid fears it is a backdoor for Chinese surveillance and is involved in corporate skullduggery.

In December 2018, the company's CFO and Ren's daughter, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada at the request of the US. Since then the US has accused Meng of breaking sanctions, and the company as a whole of stealing trade secrets. Huawei and Meng deny any wrongdoing.

The US has long frozen Huawei out of its own phone market, citing concerns that the company could act as a backdoor for the Chinese government to spy on US citizens. More recently, the US has been lobbying its allies to forego using any of Huawei's equipment in setting up 5G networks.

Ren downplayed the power the US had to torpedo Huawei's business. "There's no way the US can crush us," he told the BBC on Monday. "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."

He even spun the US's sustained pressure as a positive. "Because the US keeps targeting us and finding fault with us it has forced us to improve our products and services," he said.

Although the US has been able to gain some traction in convincing allies to eschew Huawei's technology, on Sunday the Financial Times reported that the UK government has concluded it can mitigate the security risks.

Ren made special mention of the UK in his interview. "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," he said.

This defiance marks a change in Ren's rhetoric. Ren struck a much more conciliatory tone in January when he told reporters that he thought Donald Trump was a "great president."

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou

In the interview, Ren also spoke about the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou. "I object to what the US has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable."

"There's no impact on Huawei's business due to Meng Wanzhou's loss of freedom. In fact, we're growing even faster. So they caught Meng Wanzhou, maybe they got the wrong person," he said.

"They may have thought if they've arrested her, Huawei would fall. But we didn't fall, we are still moving forward."

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