By Clay Chandler and Eamon Barrett
March 30, 2019

The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Chinese telecom equipment manufacturing giant Huawei Technology has hired top-drawer Washington public relations group Burson Cohn & Wolfe to “help it make its case in the US following months of media and political scrutiny.”

One wonders where those spin doctors were on Thursday when Huawei summoned global press to its headquarters in Shenzhen to trumpet its annual financial results. The headline Huawei hoped for—and in some instances received—was that the company’s 2018 sales surged nearly 20% to a record $107 billion despite U.S. government efforts to cast doubt on the security of its products. Profits leapt 25% to $8.8 billion. Very impressive.

And yet most stories led with the in-your-face comments of Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping: “The U.S. government has a loser’s attitude. They want to smear Huawei because they can’t compete with us.”

“Huawei Urges U.S. to Drop ‘Loser’s Attitude‘” blared the Reuters headline. “Huawei Executive Rips U.S. Government” echoed the New York Post.

Sticking a thumb in the eye of Uncle Sam has become a staple of public appearances by Huawei executives. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month Guo trolled Washington by flashing a photo of former National Security Agency subcontractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents revealing the NSA’s use of U.S.-made telecom equipment for a spy system known as PRISM.

Another rotating chairman, Eric Xu, has lashed out against two U.S. congressmen as “ignorant” and “ill-informed” for charging Huawei with theft of U.S. technology. In a February interview with the BBC, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei boasted “There’s no way the US can crush us. The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced.”

The tough talk may be satisfying. Undoubtedly it plays well in Beijing. But it’s not winning friends for Huawei in the West.

It shouldn’t require an expensive PR firm for Huawei to recognize that, beyond China, its core problem is one of trust. It needs to be seen as a reliable partner: responsible, respectful, mature.

The way to earn that trust is not with grandiloquent boasts and bratty taunts. If Huawei wants to be taken seriously, it should stop blowing raspberries and instead offer constructive proposals to cooperate with Western—especially American—regulators to establish third-party panels that could review and verify its products are secure.

More China news below.

Clay Chandler


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