“The company has decided to hand out a ‘Special Award for Struggles’ to all employees, who have made contributions to our coping with the U.S. sanctions,” Zheng Liangcai, of Huawei’s human resources management department, wrote to staff this week in an internal memo reviewed by The Washington Post.
With a few exceptions for bad performance or violating company rules, employees will receive double their October base salary, to be paid by the end of November, Zheng said in the memo, which was sent Nov. 11, an auspicious day known as “Double 11” in China. There will be a minimum additional payment of $2,850.
Nov. 11 is China’s answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when hundreds of millions of consumers flock to Taobao, an e-commerce site owned by Alibaba. Buyers spent a record $38.4 billion on Monday, an outcome that would have pleased the Chinese government as the economy slows.
Despite the payout, one Huawei employee, Yang Hui, said that money wasn’t the point. “There is sentiment attached to our work,” he said in the company memo. “Under the current circumstances, bonuses are not the priority. The priority is to fight to the end.”
Details of the extra payments were first reported by the South China Morning Post.
In addition, the company has earmarked $285 million in bonuses for employees who have helped with “business continuity” this year. Local media reported that this applies to staff who have helped the Shenzhen-based company build alternative supply chains as President Trump has sought to cut off Huawei’s access to American-made components.
This applies especially to Huawei’s Harmony OS operating system, developed as an alternative to Google’s Android, and to Kunpeng chips, the microprocessors that Huawei has made to replace American-built semiconductors.
Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, has come under extreme pressure from the Trump administration, which suspects its technology could be used to spy on behalf of China’s ruling Communist Party.
The company was founded in 1987 by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei and has grown into a corporate behemoth that exemplifies the party’s vision for the country’s future: advanced, high-tech and Chinese to the core. But its emergence has been met with growing suspicions about its links to the ruling party and whether the company might be acting on Beijing’s behalf.
Huawei and Ren have strenuously denied such accusations.
But the Trump administration is far from convinced. In May, it banned U.S. government agencies from doing business with Huawei and has put the company and 70 of its affiliates on a security-related blacklist, blocking American manufacturers from selling their products to the Chinese firm.
The White House has tried to convince other countries to take similar action, in particular to block Huawei from building next-generation 5G wireless networks. But last month, Huawei said it had signed more than 60 commercial contracts for 5G — double the number it had secured in January — and had shipped more than 400,000 base stations used to transmit 5G.
More than half the 5G contracts are in Europe. Germany’s government last month said it would not exclude any equipment makers from its 5G networks.
Huawei is not publicly listed and therefore does not have to release financial results, but every quarter, it publishes selected and unaudited numbers. Based on the latest announcement, last month, analysts said the company looked to be holding up relatively well and on track to fare better this year than in 2017 or 2018.
That might be enough to make Huawei chiefs feel flush enough to pay extra bonuses.
In August, Ren warned the company faced a “live or die moment” because of the American campaign against it and warned that Huawei might have to shed staff.
Still, reaction to Wednesday’s news on the heavily censored Chinese Internet was mixed. “Even Apple people will want to become Huawei staff!” said one person who used the name WuTian9 on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter.
Another claimed to have contributed to the award fund. “I bought Huawei products on Singles Day, and I contributed a little to that two billion,” wrote Taotaobujue, referring to the amount of the bonuses in Chinese yuan.
But others noted that Huawei employees work around the clock, so people should keep their workload in mind before envying the extra payments.
Underlining the close ties between the company and the party, state media reported Wednesday that China’s top political adviser, Wang Yang, had visited a Huawei innovation exhibition center in Cairo.
Wang, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, was briefed on Huawei’s operations, investment, research and development and plans, state broadcasting unit CGTN reported.
“This is a miniature of the development of Chinese enterprises and a model of exchanges between companies in different countries in the age of globalization,” Wang was quoted as saying.
Lyric Li contributed to this report.