Huawei must learn from US tech success stories, says founder Ren Zhengfei

Staff Q&A sees workers ask about supply chain troubles. The answer was ‘figure it out’ — and do the same for shabby cloud storage CPU utilisation rates

Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei has urged the company’s employees to learn from the USA and not narrow their thinking, despite decrying the US bans that have hurt his company.

Ren made his remarks in May during a speech and Q&A session conducted with Huawei staff awarded “Gold Medal Employee” status. The CEO’s remarks were widely published in China over the weekend.

One element of the CEO’s speech was that the USA’s successes in science and technology are worthy of study, even if relations are currently not entirely cordial.

“Just because the US is trying to suppress us does not mean we do not recognise it as a teacher. This will lead to isolation,” he said.

The question-and-answer session alternated between philosophical meanderings, paternal advice and dissemination of practical company information.

Ren described the growth of 5G technology as a part of the early Information Revolution — a movement that will take ten years compared to the Industrial Revolution’s 60. According to Ren, the technology’s value has not yet manifested.

In response to an employee who asked about Huawei’s supply chain challenges, Ren recommended further study of systems engineering to help the company tackle difficult challenges.

When another staffer asked for recommendations on how to source supplies when foreign companies have stopped talking to Huawei, Ren replied: “Work is inherently difficult. There is no difficulty, why do you want to get such a high salary?”

Huawei, he said, will prove its mettle by finding a way through.

When it came to cloud storage, he said the difficulties will increase as data becomes larger and called “the coordination established in the middle” a weakness for Huawei as “CPU utilisation for the company is only 15 per cent”.

Ren said:

Is there the ability to increase the CPU utilisation to 35 per cent? In this way, customers do not need to spend more money to double their capacity. Our computing power is to take the path of cluster computing, and it is a very big responsibility to improve the role of each computing unit. Therefore, there must be good middleware.

He compared data scheduling to a mother bird feeding its baby chickens down a row, each one getting a bite before starting again at the beginning: “Our coordinated middleware is finished, and each CPU gets even data, and it is increased by 35 per cent. In this way, customers can solve the problem without increasing investment. How can they be dissatisfied? But in fact, we can’t do it yet.”

Ren then praised minimalist structures, stating devices should only perform to the level of task they are needed for in order to reduce cost.

He ended his Q&A with a recommendation for a patriotic TV series called The Age of Awakening, about the history of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Coincidentally, the Q&A was published on the internal forum less than a week before the CPC’s 100th anniversary on July 1.

The speech isn’t the first time Ren has heaped praise on the USA despite US sanctions, the pronounced effect they have had on Huawei’s financials or the arrest of his daughter in Canada, by US request, for stockpiling. In a 2019 WSJ interview, he said “I still worship America now,” adding “I haven’t stopped loving America because America attacked me.”

Earlier this month Huawei battled distrust by opening a third cyber security centre, this time in China, to allow regulators, independent third-party organisations and customers to gain a closer look at its wares. ®

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