He said Huawei is now producing telecom network equipment without U.S. chips or components, and it has shipped such gear to more than 40 telecom companies, including some in Europe. Huawei has also reduced U.S. parts in its cellphones, he said.
“Based on the current situation, I think there is no problem that we cannot survive,” Ren, 75, said from a grand reception hall decorated with Grecian statues and columns, where Huawei typically receives foreign customers and guests.
The Trump administration banned most U.S. technology sales to Huawei in May, after labeling the company a security threat. U.S. officials say the Chinese government could tap into Huawei equipment installed overseas to spy on the West or disrupt infrastructure — allegations Huawei denies.
The White House eased the ban somewhat last month, allowing some U.S. companies to resume sales “which do not pose a significant risk to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Industry officials said the United States is allowing the sale of some components Huawei uses to build consumer products, but it is continuing to ban the export of chips and other parts Huawei needs to make equipment for 5G wireless Internet networks. Huawei and its main rivals, Ericsson and Nokia, are competing to sell the equipment to countries investing heavily in the super-fast networks, which are expected to enable future technologies such as autonomous driving.
Adding Huawei to the trade blacklist was part of a broad U.S. push against the Chinese company, which the United States also accuses of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Ren described Trump as “trying to crush businesses and intimidate countries around the world,” and he said the trade ban on Huawei would backfire on the United States by depriving tech companies of sales.
If U.S. companies won’t supply Huawei, “I’m sure suppliers in other countries will gladly offer their own products to fill that void,” Ren said.
Among the U.S. parts Huawei can’t buy at the moment is a crucial type of chip made by San Jose’s Xilinx. The FPGA chip allows 5G base stations to be programmed from afar, a flexibility telecom companies like because 5G technology is new and will require adjustments over time, analysts say.
Ren said Huawei had used part of its $15 billion annual R&D budget to design its own FPGA chip that “can deliver as good a performance as Xilinx chips.” Telecom companies have given Huawei positive feedback about equipment containing these Huawei-made chips, he said, although he declined to name specific companies.
Some U.S. tech analysts have cast doubt on Huawei’s ability to produce an FPGA that can match the Xilinx product.
Xilinx declined to comment.
One big remaining obstacle for Huawei: Company officials in Shenzhen said the trade ban is still preventing Huawei from licensing Google apps such as Gmail and YouTube for use on its cellphones. That has made the phones less attractive for customers overseas, causing Huawei phone sales to fall in Western markets, even as they have continued to climb in China, according to the company.
Huawei’s total sales in the first nine months of the year grew 24 percent over the same period in 2018, to $86 billion, the company said in an October news release that noted the figures were unaudited. Huawei shares are not publicly traded, so the company isn’t required to publish a full set of audited quarterly results or to break down its sales by division or geographic market.
The Grecian hall where Ren spoke with The Washington Post was part of an elaborately decorated building that Huawei uses to entertain customers. The palatial entry hall features grand marble staircases, Renaissance-style ceiling frescoes and gilded chandeliers. One wing is decorated like a quaint Kyoto lane, with old-fashioned storefronts and a sushi restaurant. Behind another door sits a verdant greenhouse featuring traditional wooden homes from the Chinese countryside.
Brian Chamberlin, an American marketing executive at Huawei who receives telecom-company clients in the building, said some customers have expressed concerns about the U.S. trade ban.
“Of course every carrier customer is concerned with Huawei being able to deliver,” he said. “And of course Huawei is doing everything in our power, despite the American pressure, to be able to meet our commitment to our customers.”
“Our customers are standing by us,” said Chamberlin, who previously worked for Cisco in California.