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In the midst of an alarming tide of anti-Apple sentiment among Chinese consumers, the founder and CEO of the company at the centre of the storm has come out voicing strong support for Apple, stating that he is firmly against any move that China might make against the iPhone maker.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei expressed his opposition to the U.S. trade war and sanctions that have been put in place against his company, but made it clear that he doesn’t hold Apple responsible in any way, and in fact feels that Huawei and Apple are being used as pawns by the Trump Administration in the larger trade war.
After U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this month that effectively cut Huawei off from key components in its supply chain, there have been suggestions that Beijing could respond in kind by banning Apple from the Chinese market — a move that would spell big trouble for Apple. Ren, however, emphatically stated that this isn’t going to happen, adding that if it did he would be the first to protest such a move by the Chinese government.
That will not happen, first of all. And second of all, if that happens, I’ll be the first to protest. Apple is my teacher, it’s in the lead. As a student, why go against my teacher? Never.Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei
Ren minced no words in expressing his admiration for and loyalty to Apple as a company, describing Apple as his “teacher” and suggesting that it would be dishonourable for him to ever go against it on that basis. The position of Huawei, and by extension Ren, as a favoured son of the Chinese government adds considerable weight to Ren’s assertions that Beijing isn’t likely to retaliate against any U.S. companies, and especially not against Apple.
However, as much as Ren clearly esteems Apple and doesn’t consider the company to be part of his fight, he’s pulling no punches when it comes to the respect he has lost for President Donald Trump. In response to Trump’s suggestions last week that Huawei could become a bargaining chip in a U.S.-China trade deal, Ren scoffed at the idea, saying, “It’s a big joke. How are we related to China-U.S. trade?” and adding that if Trump calls, he plans to ignore him.
In another interview last week with the Beijing News, Ren candidly admitted that his own family prefers Apple products, even often buying iPhones and MacBooks to bring back as gifts for him when they’re travelling abroad. Ren’s daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, was carrying several Apple Products, including an iPhone 7 Plus and a MacBook Air when she was arrested in Vancouver last year, a move that was at least partly responsible for bringing the traditionally reclusive 74-year-old CEO back out into the spotlight; prior to January he hadn’t spoken to the media since 2015.
Ren denies speculation that he has any special loyalty to China’s Communist Party per se, although of course he says he’s loyal to the Chinese government, so that may be a small distinction. When it comes to technology, however, Ren clearly appears to want Huawei to succeed on its own merits, not quashing Apple but rather rising to surpass it, in the same way that a student should strive to rise beyond their teacher.