Huawei has been in the crosshairs of the US government for a while, and now it seems like the Chinese company is tired of it. In an interview with French website Les Echos last week (as reported by Foreign Policy), Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said that the company will be backing away from doing business in the US. This comes after a number of allegations from the US House Intelligence Committee that Huawei could be helping the Chinese government spy on Americans through products like its routers and switches, thereby opening the door for cyberattacks against the US. Though Huawei has denied the allegations, it seems the company no longer wants to do business in a country that’s suspicious of its operations.
Ren reportedly told French media that getting in the middle of China’s relations with the US “isn’t worth it,” following up by saying the company had “decided to exit the US market.” What exactly Ren means by that is unclear at the moment, but Huawei’s William Plummer told Foreign Policy that it “has adjusted our priority focus to markets that welcome competition and investment, like Europe.” Plummer similarly avoided specifics, but statements like those don’t really leave much to the imagination.
This is somewhat surprising because Huawei makes a fair amount of money in the US. Its budget-minded smartphones are certainly popular with consumers, so to see it exit the US market will leave some scratching their heads. Huawei may not be leaving the US behind entirely, though, as Rhodium Group’s Dan Rosen told Foreign Policy that he expects the company’s research and development facilities in the US to stick around for some time to come.
Huawei isn’t the only company to come under fire for its assumed connection to the Chinese government, as US officials have accused ZTE of spying as well. Whether or not such accusations have any truth to them remains to be seen, but it looks like Huawei is tired of denying nonetheless. To make things even more confusing, CNET spoke to a Huawei representative who said the company will “remain committed to our customers, employees, investments, and operations and more than $1 billion in sales in the US.” That doesn’t exactly jibe with what Ren supposedly said, so it may not be a bad idea for us to wait for further information before attempting to make a call either way.
For what it’s worth, Ren rarely does interviews of any kind. If there’s one announcement worth stepping into the public eye to make, though, this would certainly be it. Huawei’s plans are definitely still foggy, so we’ll just have to wait until someone at the company starts dishing clearer details. Given the company’s treatment from the US, however, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear these reports confirmed.