In US charm offensive, China's Huawei launches ad to combat dark image

Huawei touted its relief efforts in disaster-torn countries like Chile and Indonesia, and its work to connect the undeserved around the world.
Huawei touted its relief efforts in disaster-torn countries like Chile and Indonesia, and its work to connect the undeserved around the world.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Huawei Technologies ran a full page ad in major United States newspapers on Thursday (Feb 28) urging readers not to believe "everything you hear", about the Chinese tech firm, as it defends itself against government accusations that its equipment can be used to spy.

The world's largest telecommunications equipment maker, which has been charged with bank fraud related to US sanctions against Iran, touted its relief efforts in disaster-torn countries like Chile and Indonesia, and its work to connect the underserved around the world.

"Our doors are always open. We would like the US public to get to know us better," the ad states, noting that the US government has "developed some misunderstandings about us".

The advertisement ran in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Politico, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, said Huawei spokesman Chase Skinner.

The move is part of an unprecedented public relations blitz, launched last month with a 25-minute interview aired on state-controlled China Central Television (CCTV) with Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei.

Interviews on Britain's BBC and American broadcaster CBS soon followed.

In the CCTV segment, Mr Ren shrugged off the global push against his company and hinted at the rationale behind the media push.

 
 
 

"My public relations department forced me," a smiling Mr Ren told CCTV. "I must make our clients understand us, make our 180,000 employees understand us, come together and get through this tough time."

The US warns that next-generation 5G equipment, which some telecoms experts see as more vulnerable to attack than previous technology, could be exploited by the Chinese government for spying if supplied by Huawei.

Huawei has denied the claims, even as American officials have tried to persuade governments and telecoms operators around the world to shun Huawei equipment.

"I think it's more being transparent. It's time to take control of our narrative," Mr Skinner said, noting that Huawei buys US$11 billion (S$14.87 billion) in US goods every year.

The move comes as the US seeks the extradition from Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer and Mr Ren's 47-year-old daughter, after charging her with bank and wire fraud related to the violation of US sanctions against Iran.

In interviews earlier this month, Mr Ren said her arrest was politically motivated and that the company had never shared any customer information with the Chinese government, and never would.