Remember when Huawei's CFO was detained in Canada? She's been promoted to chair the board

Meng Wanzhou will get her regular six-month stints in the role, starting who knows when


Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou – who was famously held in Canada and is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei – has quietly been named as one of three people who share the role as chair of the Chinese company's board.

Huawei rotatesits CEO and chair every six months, appointing the new leaders from a panel of three who each take turns in the top jobs before reverting to be mere senior advisors.

While critics of the system may question the resulting continuity and accountability, founder Ren Zhengfai justifies the unique approach by saying the rotating and acting CEOs "sought harmony in diversity," helping the company "adapt quickly to changes in the environment."

"They make decisions collectively, which avoids corporate rigidity caused by any particular individual being too obstinate and also avoids the uncertainties caused by unexpected risks to company operations," said Ren. In 2018, the co-CEO role was downgraded to "rotating deputy chairperson."

Meng Wanzhou's appointment to the panel for chair appears to have come without formal public announcement, unlike last week's notice that Ken Hu's turn as chairperson had commenced.

Meng's bio does not specify when her term will begin. She's probably due to take the big chair in April 2023, as another of the panel – Xu Zhijun – is due a turn in October 2022.

In addition to serving as Huawei's CFO, Meng most famously was at the center of a US-China diplomatic dispute that saw her spend almost three years in Canada fighting extradition to the US. Canadian authorities arrested Meng in December 2018 on behalf of the US government, when the Justice Department indicted her and Huawei on charges of violating sanctions on Iran.

She was released in September 2021 after striking a deal with the DoJ. In exchange for US authorities dropping charges, Meng admitted to making false statements about Huawei's business dealings with Iran.

Huawei remains on the US's entity list of companies considered pariahs as buyers of US technologies, and also barred from many activities on US soil. The US is so convinced Huawei's products represent a security threat that it has created a $1.9 billion program that reimburses small to medium-sized telecom providers for ripping out and replacing its equipment, along with kit from four other Chinese firms.

US sanctions have proven effective. Huawei revenue declined year-on-year in 2021, from $139.9 billion to $99.9 billion. The company did report overall profit for the year, as it sold off business segments like its Honor smartphone brand and server hardware company xFusion Digital Technologies.

Huawei China's executive board isn't the only one recently facing changes. Last month two of Huawei's UK board members resigned over the company's silence regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine. ®

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