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Huawei’s CFO promoted to a top post months after U.S. extradition deal

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on March 28. (Str/AFP/Getty Images)
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SHANGHAI — Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has promoted chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou to a key role just half a year after the end of her U.S. extradition fight, setting up a potential family succession at one of China’s most important companies.

The promotion makes 50-year-old Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, one of three rotating chairs who helm Huawei for six-month intervals. Ren, 77, remains chief executive.

Ren had long said his children would not succeed him at Huawei. Meng, who spent most of her Huawei career in the finance department, was widely seen as lacking the engineering expertise that would allow Huawei’s employees to accept her as their leader. But her lengthy house arrest in Canada has raised her popularity within the company and across China.

Meng entered the international spotlight in December 2018, when she was detained in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. Her detention sparked a global standoff after China jailed two Canadian nationals on vague charges, in what Western officials said was an example of “hostage diplomacy.” Meng remained in house arrest in Vancouver for almost three years battling extradition to the United States.

She returned to China in September after cutting a deal with the U.S. Justice Department in which she acknowledged helping to conceal the company’s direct dealings in Iran, which violated U.S. sanctions. While Meng admitted illegal conduct, she did not have to plead guilty as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

Huawei, which reported $100 billion in revenue last year, is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier by sales. The company’s global advance has raised concerns for Washington because of its close ties with Beijing and the telecom sector’s importance to national security investigations and government surveillance.

Meng will keep her place as chief financial officer. She replaces Guo Ping, who joined Huawei shortly after its establishment and helped organize the company’s defense for its first major clash with the West, an intellectual property lawsuit from Cisco Systems in 2003. The other two rotating chairmen, Ken Hu and Eric Xu, remain in place.

Huawei spokeswoman Evita Cao said in a statement Saturday that Guo is now chairman of the company’s supervisory board, which oversees top executives on behalf of shareholders. Cao said 131,507 Huawei employees hold shares in the company, which is not publicly listed.

Ren has not announced when he will retire or what the longer-term succession plan will be. There has long been speculation that Ren ultimately hopes to install Meng as his successor.

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Cao said Saturday that Huawei’s succession plan relies on collective leadership. “We can only ensure our survival and development by utilizing collective wisdom,” she said.

Meng made her first public appearance since her return to China at an annual news conference on Monday.

“The past four years, there have been tremendous changes in the world and in China,” she said. “In the few months that I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to catch up. I hope I will catch up.”