Ren Zhengfei, Huawei Founder and CEO, sat down with two prominent thinkers George Gilder and Nicholas Negroponte for 100 minutes of conversation and Q&A on June 17.
The new segment named “Coffee With Ren” marks the first of a series of discussions held by Huawei to talk about important and highly controversial issues surrounding Huawei. The panel held today was chaired by Tian Wei, host of China Global Television Network’s World Insight.
Throughout the discussion, Ren, Gilder, Negroponte, and Catherine Chen, Huawei’s Board Member and Senior Vice President, discussed several topics ranging from Huawei’s recent predicament caused by U.S. sanctions, to political struggles between China and the U.S., as well as challenges of enhancing basic research and education in China.
At the conclusion of the panel, Ren summarized his thoughts in one sentence: The world must be open to urban collaboration.
“To create wealth and alleviate more people from poverty, an open collaboration between people must be established. So I believe the fundamental issue the world is facing is that we have to march towards an urban cooperation,” Ren said. “We have to analyze and address the problem carefully, instead of adopting rash and extreme measures. Wealth is only created through scientific discovery, while being guided by political wisdom and entrepreneurship.”
Ren explained that in the past 30 years, Huawei’s development has been dependent on the support and cooperation of companies around the world. But it never occurred to Huawei that the American government would be so determined to take such a wide range of extreme measures against the company. “I think both sides will suffer,” he said. “No one will win.”
He added that the restrictive measures imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce will not stop Huawei from continuing its mission of bringing digitization to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.
“In the past, when we were weak, we were determined to work with U.S. companies to grow. We will continue to do so in the future too, despite various setbacks that we have come across,” Ren elaborated on Huawei’s relation with the U.S. decision. “We’re not afraid to cooperate with the U.S. even if there may be some who are afraid to do so.”
The U.S. have accused Chinese technology companies such as Huawei of engaging in IPR infringements and threatening cybersecurity, to which, Ren responded in a firm manner that, “There are no backdoors in Huawei’s equipment that anyone could access, and that Huawei is willing to enter into a no backdoor agreement with any nation that wants one.”
Ren compared Huawei’s smart devices to a water tap, and likewise pipelines to network operators. “Huawei’s commitment to implementing no backdoors is non-negotiable. It’s important for people to not have groundless claims and speculations like this to attack others,” said Ren. “In the future of technology advancement, there will always be some form of system vulnerability, or loopholes to be taken advantage of. You can’t possibly be 100 percent safe.”
In response to a reporter from Washington Post and an article released by Bloomberg, Ren confirmed that international smartphone shipments have indeed dropped by 40 percent as a result of the Trump administration’s blacklisting. However, Ren clarified that the Chinese market is still booming with vitality, and that Huawei will always willing to engage in open collaborations with others.
Ren is also convinced that throughout the next 20 years, the biggest driving force in technology will be artificial intelligence. He advocated that AI should not be viewed in a negative light, but instead regarded as an extension of human intelligence. The capabilities of AI are infinite and may potentially provide solutions to challenging problems faced by the world that no individual, nor groups, can ever come up with.
Although Ren expressed positive views on Huawei’s future, he also voiced concerns in China’s capability in research and innovation.
“I believe that although innovation across China today is booming, a lot of it is application innovation; innovation built atop of other global innovations. China is facing challenges on the front of basic education and research investment. I hope government departments will really think about this issue,” Ren said.
He added that Huawei will continue to reel in talented individuals to expand its R&D capabilities. “There are countless universities out there and there’ll always be someone who will want to work with us. If there are exceptional talents to work with, we will definitely try to expand our research power and never give up on our endeavors just because of short term setbacks.”
“Huawei is at the epicenter of the future of the technology of the world. This is really a Huawei test to see how the U.S. and other countries will react to Huawei,” said Gilder as the talk wrapped up. “If they don’t pass it, then it means the world is on a destructive path.”
Featured photo credit to Xinhua