SHANGHAI • The US has temporarily eased trade curbs on China's Huawei to minimise disruption for its customers, a move the founder of the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker said meant little because it was already prepared for the US action.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei yesterday told Chinese state media 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," Mr Ren said in an interview with China Central Television, or CCTV.
He reiterated 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 noted.
He also said that Huawei was at odds with the US government, not American companies.
In a comment that trended on Chinese social media, Mr Ren praised Apple's iPhones, saying he gave the American tech company's devices to his family members.
"Apple has a good business ecosystem... We cannot think narrow-mindedly that loving Huawei equals loving its phones," he said.
Earlier, Huawei had reacted to Google's decision to stop allowing updates to the Chinese company's Android phones by saying it had "made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world".
"As one of Android's key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry," said Huawei spokesman Joe Kelly, adding that the company would continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to existing Huawei products.
Google's announcement had come at an awkward time for Huawei, which yesterday unveiled its Honor 20 series of smartphones in London.
The US Commerce Department blocked Huawei Technologies from buying American goods last week - in 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.
But on Monday, the Commerce Department granted Huawei a licence to buy US goods until Aug 19, in order to maintain existing telecoms networks and provide software updates to Huawei smartphones, a move intended to give telecommunication operators that rely on Huawei time to make other arrangements.
However, Huawei is still prohibited from buying American-made hardware and software to make new products without further, hard-to-obtain licences.
The US Commerce Department said it will evaluate whether to extend Huawei's licence period beyond 90 days.
Huawei is 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 denied the charge.
Monday's temporary licence 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.
The licence also allows Huawei to engage in the development of standards for fifth-generation (5G) telecommunication networks.
Chip experts said the technology Huawei buys from US companies would be "hard to replace". Nearly 16 per cent of Huawei's spending on components last year went to US firms including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron Technology.
InterDigital Wireless said on Monday that it can license its 5G network technology to Huawei despite the threat of the US ban, and patent attorneys said Qualcomm likely also can do so. InterDigital said it believes it can continue its efforts to strike a 5G deal with Huawei because export control laws do not cover patents, which are public records and therefore not confidential technology.
REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST