Huawei’s chairman Ken Hu appeared at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, appearing calm and composed at the gathering of the world’s political leaders and elite.
Hu and other senior Huawei executives are appearing at the conference, despite facing considerable global hostility thanks to worries that the Chinese firm helps its governments to spy on other nations. Huawei’s CFO is being detained in Canada and under investigation for alleged dealings with Iran, which is forbidden under US sanctions. And the company is reportedly facing a criminal probe for allegedly stealing US firms’ trade secrets.
Speaking during a panel on Tuesday morning, Hu said next-generation mobile internet, 5G, would be the next major technological development.
He said Huawei has deployed 5G in more than 10 countries, and expects to deploy it in another 20 over the next 12 months. He added that Huawei will be bringing out its 5G smartphone in June of this year.
Hu’s comments strike a defiant tone, given Huawei is seeing major barriers to its 5G business. The US government has been lobbying its allies to ban Huawei’s 5G equipment from their mobile networks. The fear is that Huawei’s equipment allows China’s Communist Party to spy on other governments, something the firm’s leadership has denied.
“5G is ready, 5G is coming, and 5G will bring every one of us great benefits,” Hu said. He claimed that 5G could enable people to watch a football game from the perspective of the players, or enable a smartphone to download an HD movie in just seconds. He also listed smart manufacturing, autonomous driving, and remote surgery as possible beneficiaries of the technology.
Hu touched on Huawei being caught up by the US-China trade war. He said Huawei has seen a “damaging effect,” and warned it might get worse before it gets better.
“We are probably not suffering the worst right now,” Hu said. He concluded that while Chinese companies including Huawei are able to react to the trade war for the moment, in the long term, “just being reactive is not enough.”
Huawei’s executives have spoken out more forcefully since the arrest of their CFO, Meng Wanzhou, who happens to be the daughter of CEO Ren Zhengfei. Ren recently broke years of public silence to speak to reporters to address the arrest of his daughter. He also tried to assuage national security fears, and called Donald Trump a “great president.”