Huawei chief says US may 'escalate' campaign against firm

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said the company had invested intensely in protecting itself and was well-prepared this year. PHOTO: AFP

DAVOS (AFP) - The chief executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on Tuesday (Jan 21) said he was ready for the United States to escalate a "campaign" against the firm this year but insisted it would not have a significant effect on business.

The comments by Huawei chief executive and founder Ren Zhengfei to business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos come amid a bitter court fight in Canada over a US demand to extradite the company's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is his eldest daughter.

Huawei, the global leader in telecom networking equipment, has also been effectively banned by the US from working with American firms on the grounds that it poses a national security threat - an accusation the company has consistently denied.

"This year, the US might escalate their campaign against Huawei, but I think the impact on Huawei business will not be very significant," Mr Ren told a session at Davos.

He said the company had invested intensely in protecting itself and was well-prepared this year.

"That's why we could withstand the first round of attack. In the year 2020, since we already have this experience from last year, we are more confidant that we can survive, even further attacks," he added.

Meng went to court on Monday to fight extradition to the US, with her lawyers calling the accusations against her "fiction".

The US alleges that Meng lied to HSBC Bank about Huawei's relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Teheran.

Meng has denied the allegations. She has been out on bail, living in one of her two Vancouver mansions for the past year.

Mr Ren has previously suggested that the case is part of a US plot to crush Huawei, seeing it as a security risk.

Huawei said in December that "survival" was its top priority after announcing that 2019 sales were expected to fall short of projections as a result of US sanctions.

Washington has banned US companies from selling equipment to Huawei, locking out the smartphone giant from access to Google's Android operating system.

"The United States... it is used to being the world number one and if someone is better than them, they might not feel comfortable," commented Mr Ren.

He said Huawei "used to be" an admirer of the US and had notably been inspired by American management systems.

"From that perspective, the US should not be overly concerned about Huawei and Huawei's position in the world."

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