Yes, Ren Zhengfei wields enormous power over the Chinese telecom giant. But the company's management is far more complex.
FORTUNE — You may have read that Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, has finally broken his media silence. The reclusive CEO gave his first public media briefing in — of all places — Wellington, New Zealand, where he addressed security concerns about his company and his involvement in China’s Communist Party. There’s more to the story than the headlines making the rounds today suggest.
While Ren is the official chief executive of Huawei — and has been since the company’s founding two and a half decades ago — he recently initiated an unusual governance structure in which three “rotating acting CEOs” work under him and shift power every six months. And those interim CEOs — who are quite possibly being groomed to take over the company someday soon — aren’t as gun-shy around the media. In fact the Chinese titan has been on a charm offensive of sorts. Its presence, for example, at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona could be described as overwhelming. Its ads were everywhere, and the company set up two sprawling booths — one to showcase its consumer handsets and tablets and another to display telecom equipment. It also touted its Ascend P2, which it dubbed the “world’s fastest smartphone.”
Fortune recently caught up with Guo Ping, one of Huawei’s rotating acting CEOs, to find out more about how the executive rotation works. (Several tech companies, including SAP SAP and BlackBerry BBRY , have a history of co-CEOs, but having three chief executives taking turns at the helm is far from common.) Through an interpreter, he described how during each stint, the rotating acting CEO is responsible for the company’s financial performance and is expected to take the lead in any crisis. Once their turn is up, they go back to their regular corporate duties and still have a say in the company’s decisions via a seven-person executive management team. Here is some of what he said at the time:
Of course, Ren is still the top dog at Huawei, and it’s not clear exactly how much power these rotating acting CEOs have during their tenure. Still, despite the headlines, Huawei has been far from quiet.