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Huawei gets into a power struggle between the USA and China - CEO explains new plans

2021-09-11T08:17:03.642Z

In the China.Table interview, Huawei CEO Liang Hua is optimistic about the Group's business development - and about uniform tech standards in the world, despite geopolitical conflicts



In the China.Table interview, Huawei CEO Liang Hua is optimistic about the Group's business development - and about uniform tech standards in the world, despite geopolitical conflicts

  • Huawei CEO Liang Hua believes in a future for his company on the global market despite geopolitical tensions - and in a unification of global technology standards.

  • Huawei regularly rotates its CEO among members of the management team - Liang Hua is currently at the helm.

  • This interview is available to IPPEN.MEDIA as part of a cooperation with the 

    China.Table Professional Briefing

     - it was first published by 

    China.Table

     on July 12, 2021.

Beijing / Shenzhen - The Chinese telecommunications group Huawei was drawn into the geopolitical tensions between China and the West like no other company. It is almost symbolic of the concern with which some in Europe and the USA look at the international involvement of Chinese companies. How much does the state interfere with them, do they have a hidden agenda? In particular, some US politicians accuse Huawei of espionage for the Chinese government. Others at least see the danger that Huawei * could be forced by Beijing to surrender sensitive data. In addition, the US is demanding the extradition of the Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is currently under house arrest in Canada, for alleged violations of the American sanctions on Iran. The dispute dragged Canada into the conflict:In China, two Canadians have just been given draconian sentences. Both sides accuse each other of political motivations *.

Company founder Ren Zhengfei rejects all of this, but Huawei has been excluded from expanding 5G networks by many European countries. The USA cut Huawei off from practically all important supply chains and also forces suppliers in other countries to stop working with Huawei - if they want to continue doing business in America. The previously successful smartphone business abroad, including Germany, has practically come to a standstill because Google is no longer allowed to provide the company with its Android operating system.

The company from Shenzhen in southern China must therefore realign itself. It continues to sell its 5G network technology abroad, but in fewer countries. It developed its own operating system called HarmonyOS as an alternative to Android for smartphones. Huawei will therefore concentrate on new business areas and on the home market. Despite the political confrontation between China * and the USA, Liang Hua, the current CEO of Huawei, does not assume that the world will split into two technological systems. In an interview with China.Table, Liang Hua talks about HarmonyOS, the entry into autonomous driving and climate protection - and less about geopolitics - even though he suggests that he would like to continue working with companies in Europe.

Liang Hua, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering, has been with Huawei since 1995 and has been head of Vorstnad for a few months.

One of the peculiarities of Huawei is that the top position rotates regularly among the members of the management.

Company founder Ren Zhengfei is still a member of this 16-strong management team and is the only one who has the right to veto all decisions.

In addition, the company belongs to its employees, which should stay that way - Ren has no plans for an IPO.

Huawei: geopolitics and 5G

Mr. Liang, does the geopolitical power struggle between the US and China mean that two technological standards will now emerge?

Europeans are very concerned about this.

And hardly any other company suffers more than Huawei.

I think the standards will continue to harmonize globally.

Global networking advances humanity.

That is only possible with open cooperation and common standards.

The big trend beyond politics, beyond the current opposing currents, is clearly going in this direction.

Also with Huawei's 5G technology?

Huawei can expand its global market leadership.

However, the world is divided about the use of 5G equipment from Huawei for both data security and geopolitical reasons.

The development history speaks for it: At 2G there were still many different technical standards. After all, GSM later became a uniform standard in Europe. There were initially three variants of 3G: CDMA2000, WCDMA and China's TD-SCDMA. In the end, WCDMA prevailed. With 4G there were still two standards, LTE and WiMAX; the latter comes from the USA. LTE eventually became dominant. With 5G there is only one global standard. I don't see that this will change again now. Mainly because humanity needs global interconnectivity - and because technology works best on uniform platforms. Different standards in different countries increase costs significantly, for example in chip production and in setting up networks.Only open cooperation and mutual success bring us all forward technologically.

Isn't that naive?

In the end, it works like this in geopolitical terms: The more successful Huawei or China are, the more relentless the attempts by the USA to force Chinese competitors out of the world market.

Technical standards and market presence are two different things.

The US attempt to ban Huawei * has nothing to do with technology.

But we are convinced that market forces are stronger than political forces in the long run.

That's why we continue to focus simply on making the best products for our customers.

Huawei smartphones: After the forced end of Google's Android came HarmonyOS

Your HarmonyOS operating system, which you had to bring to market much earlier than you wanted because of the US sanctions, is still lacking the variety of apps from Android and IOS.

Your smartphone sales have plummeted.

After all, 25 million people have already upgraded their smartphones to HarmonyOS 2.0.

Android has 2.5 billion users.

Yes, but we are just getting started.

The advantages of our operating system will quickly take hold.

Because they make customers' lives easier.

HarmonyOS is a system for all IoT devices *, i.e. for the Internet of Things.

The competitors don't have that.

Especially since the individual devices can be added to a super device.

And the apps?

More and more app partners are working with the ecosystem.

There are currently more than 200 app providers and more than 2.3 million developers test and develop their apps for our Huawei Mobile Services, or HMS for short.

With more and more apps and more and more HMS-based smartphones, we will be able to offer our users an ever better experience.

We are already the third largest ecosystem in the world and we work closely with developers and IoT device manufacturers worldwide and represent a third alternative for them.

German customers are asking themselves: When will the Harmony operating system in Germany be on a par with current systems?

In China, Huawei smartphones can already be upgraded to Harmony 2.0.

The number of apps in our app gallery has already increased tenfold between 2019 and 2020.

Still, we don't have all the apps our users want yet.

We need to keep improving the user experience.

Huawei: new commitment to autonomous driving

Huawei has entered the market as a new player in another area: autonomous driving.

You are late.

What can you do better than your competitors?

We decided not to build cars.

We stick to our strengths.

We want to be a supplier and partner for car manufacturers and not a competitor at the same time.

Our strength is ICT, i.e. information and communication technology.

Autonomous driving means that cars are becoming more and more networked - with each other and in the cloud.

A dramatic upheaval for the industry.

How will the cars change?

Cars will be mobile data centers in the future.

You will have to collect, process, forward or store large amounts of data very quickly.

We're pretty good at that.

At the same time, we offer complete solutions, including data acquisition: Lidar, radar and cameras.

Back to geopolitics: The Kirin chips built into Huawei smartphones are among the most advanced in the world. Until now, Huawei needs US production technology to have them manufactured. But former President Donald Trump has also banned Asian manufacturers from producing for Huawei if they use US technology. Now you have to find partners who can produce with the same quality without US technology. How long will it be before that happens?

All market participants are currently looking for ways to become more independent of political influences.

Those in Europe and China, but also the Taiwanese market leaders and those from South Korea.

Everyone is investing heavily in this area.

Because the restrictions imposed by the Americans * have shaken confidence in the global chip industry.

A big problem.

We very much hope that trust can be restored and that all market participants are open to cooperation again.

Huawei: The challenge of climate change and environmental protection

Increasing networking produces more and more data.

To manage this, Huawei needs more and more electricity.

That harms the climate.

Does Huawei have to rethink?

It's a big challenge.

Statistics show that data centers already consume around one to two percent of global electricity.

That's a lot - and a challenge when it comes to climate change.

For us too.

What are you doing about it?

We work in three areas on the subject of environmental protection.

Firstly in reducing CO2 emissions, secondly in promoting renewable energies and thirdly in our contribution to the circular economy.

First of all, as a company for information and communication technology, we have to reduce electricity consumption.

For the former, we use technology that is environmentally friendly in our equipment.

But much more important: the data centers as a whole must become more energy-efficient.

Our newest data centers already use 20 to 30 percent less to cool the hardware - the area that eats the most energy.

How do you do that?

We have developed icooling solutions that use artificial intelligence to teach data centers how, where and when to save electricity.

This solution is already running in our cloud data center in Langfang near Beijing, for example.

Our AI systems continuously optimize the temperature - and based on accumulated experience better than anyone.

In this way we save 13,000 tons of CO2 per year in this center alone.

Do you also have an influence on the electricity you get?

China's electricity production is still almost 70 percent dependent on coal.

It's not very environmentally friendly.

We support renewable energies with our Digital Energy department and are already in business with photovoltaic solutions and energy storage products. I recently went to Qinghai, a sparsely populated province on the northeastern edge of the Himalayas. There we helped set up a 200 square kilometer system with solar panels in the desert. Very impressive. We have developed smart solutions to control this system and energy storage products. The new thing about this system is, for example, that the soil evaporation is reduced by 30 percent - and so more grass can grow under the solar panels, which is used as food for sheep. This will produce more renewable energy and increase the income of the shepherds - a real synergy between both technology and the ecosystem,as well as between new energy and classic industries.

Huawei: More electricity from renewable energies

Do you already use predominantly green electricity at Huawei?

We are on the way there.

Our research center in Chengdu runs entirely on renewable energy.

We are building more and more data centers in the west of the country, where there is a lot of wind, a lot of sun and a lot of water to generate electricity from.

It's also much cooler there.

And we're getting better and better in the area of ​​circular economy.

Electricity from alternative energies has a major disadvantage.

It depends on the weather and is therefore very unstable.

Do you have to go back to coal after all to even out the fluctuations?

The solution to this is energy storage.

We are working intensively on this.

We are currently working on this problem and believe it is solvable.

But do you manage with such projects to reduce your electricity consumption overall or at least to curb the growth in electricity consumption?

You're already working on 6G.

The amount of data that you have to process is growing exponentially.

The data centers are sure to get bigger and we need more of them.

Nevertheless, I believe that our electricity consumption will decrease overall.

An example: The energy consumption per bit of our 5G is only one tenth of the consumption per bit of 4G.

However, it is more important that we take a holistic view of electricity consumption when it comes to climate change.

For example, video conferencing prevents people from traveling by plane to meet.

The data centers need more power for this.

But the amount of energy saved by less travel is much greater.

How has environmental awareness developed at Huawei?

Have you been forced by the government?

We dealt with environmental protection very early on.

Our first Environment, Health and Safety Committee met back in 2003.

At that time it was mainly about internal environmental protection.

For example, about the use of environmentally friendly materials.

We have been publishing a sustainability report since 2009.

As we became internationally successful, we were forced to adapt to the standards of the respective countries.

And we are active in 170 countries.

Huawei's plans for the future: Digital networking in Europe

Which technological area will you pay particular attention to in the future?

We are of course working on many topics at the same time.

But the digital networking of small and medium-sized companies will be very important for us in the next few years.

There are 25 million such businesses in Europe, and only 17 percent of them are networked.

In the case of corporations, it is already 50 percent.

Here we can do a lot to make Europe competitive.

Which technological area are you personally most interested in?

That is a difficult question.

I've never thought about it because we have so many different areas - networking, computing, consumer goods or cloud services.

The longer I think about it, the more likely I would say: 5G computing will dramatically change business models and thus the economy, and ultimately all of our lives.

Just like electricity back then.

The interview was conducted by Frank Sieren.

China specialist and bestselling author 

Frank Sieren 

has lived in Beijing since 1994.

He already worked as a correspondent for 

Wirtschaftswoche

 and 

Handelsblatt

.

He has been writing for the

China.Table Professional Briefing

since 2021 

.

This interview was published on July 12th, 2021 in the China.Table Professional Briefing newsletter - as part of a cooperation, it is now also available to readers of the IPPEN.MEDIA portals.

* Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.

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© China.Table Professional Briefing

Source: merkur

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