Ren Zhengfei said that early entrepreneurial experience has made Huawei pay attention to scientific research and products, and will invest more in 5G, edge computing and cloud computing technologies in the future. When talking about the impact of technology on society, Ren Zhengfei believes that human beings will have the ability to control artificial intelligence, so there is no need to worry too much, otherwise it will hinder scientific development. At the same time, technology giants should be subject to transparent regulation, but their monopoly can benefit the world.
When talking about the European market, Ren Zhengfei said that customers in the European market know Huawei very well. When talking about Trump, Ren Zhengfei said that Trump is a great president, but he needs more consideration in attracting foreign investment.
The following are the main contents of the interview:
Talking about the history of entrepreneurship: grasping scientific research and products
Hapar: Mr. Ren, you founded Huawei for $5,000 30 years ago. What did you think at the time? What kind of expectations do you have for the company there?
Ren Zhengfei: When I first founded Huawei, we still don’t quite understand China’s reform and opening up policy. The country hopes to reform and open the country. However, most of us don't really understand the significance of this decision.
At that time, my engineering unit was disarmed, and the market economy gradually formed in China, or at least in coastal cities. These cities are gradually getting rid of the previous planned economy model.
From the army to Shenzhen, I feel very uncomfortable. Of course, later, Shenzhen developed into a front window for reform and opening up. I really couldn't understand the so-called market economy at the time, so when I was working in a state-owned company, I made a fatal mistake and the result was fired. What should I do after expulsion? I don't have a clue.
But at that time, I had a vague feeling that the communications industry is about to usher in a blowout development. Therefore, I began to look for opportunities in this market full of potential. We originally only intended to produce some small things that are better to sell. We don't know that these little things are actually designed to interconnect the entire city and the whole world. Therefore, our products need to be standardized, otherwise we will not be able to enter the network equipment industry. We have chosen a difficult road. The requirements of the industry are very high. Our company was still very small at the time, with little money or technology. Difficulties are in front of you.
When I was at school, I majored in architecture. But I also taught myself electronic technology, such as analog technology, analog automation control. The main form of analog control is the "proportional-integral-derivative" control. I left the army, 186, 286 and 386 have dominated the computer world, I have not been able to keep up with the times, but I still have to find a job to support my family. I was too naive at the time, and I naturally thought that I could make money in this big industry. I didn't realize that the communications industry was so cruel.
However, there is no regret in the world. I raised more than 20,000 yuan to cover the various expenses needed to start a company. When I got my business license, I was already penniless. We have no retreat and re-started our business. Therefore, we can only clench our teeth and move on the scalp.
Hapar: You have served in the army and experienced a difficult time like a famine. What have you learned from these experiences to help you start Huawei and guide your life philosophy?
Ren Zhengfei: At that time, the scale of Ericsson was already very large. In contrast, Huawei was still a "caterpillar." Twenty years later, the CEO of Ericsson asked me, the market entry threshold was so high, when you came from where the courage to choose the communications industry. I told him that I didn't really know that the entry threshold was so high, but once I chose this industry, there was no turning back.
I have experienced the difficult times of China and the subsequent economic recovery. I also participated in a large project to import equipment from France. These experiences taught me how to survive the hard times. When I was young, I didn't have any ideals. It is not what I want to wear good-looking clothes or seek further education. I just want to eat a full stomach, this is the only ideal.
After joining the army, my mission was to establish a chemical fiber plant in Liaoyang, a city in northeast China. The factory's equipment came from France, and at the time it was considered the world's most advanced equipment with a high level of automation.
At that time, the minimum temperature in Liaoyang's winter could reach minus 20 degrees Celsius. We live in an adobe room that only winds. Every night, we take turns to add fire to the stove. If this stove is extinguished, we will all freeze to death. During the day, we built a highly modern factory there. You see, the contrast is so vivid.
For me, this is an exciting experience. At that time, China was still in an unstable period. The country has no leisure to pay attention to technology and knowledge. But our projects require technology and knowledge. Living in such extremely demanding conditions, engaging in such a highly modern project is really a unique and exciting experience for me.
At that time, we could not use foreign test instruments. But China does not have its own test equipment. So, I invented one myself. Today, the instruments I made may not be innovative, but at the time, it was really a good invention. At that time, China had just begun to implement a policy of reform and opening up, and more and more attention to technology, talent and knowledge. I happened to have made this invention, and then the value of my invention was exaggerated by the state, and finally I was promoted. However, I have not waited for me to adapt to the new position, but also suffered disarmament, and can only find another way out. As a result, I returned to the starting point and headed into the market economy.
Hapar: You mentioned the CEO of Ericsson. At the time, it was a very bold decision to enter the communications industry. Huawei is now the world's largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. What is the driving force behind this?
Ren Zhengfei: When I was young, because I was poor, I didn't have much hobbies. But I still study, like to write homework, and are keen to solve mathematical equations in waste newspapers. Later, I also used my own mathematical knowledge to design a small instrument. In fact, this small instrument was also recognized by the government. Small projects like this always ignite my passion for scientific research.
When we first entered the telecommunications industry, we only resold the products of another company. We made some money in this way. Later, the company no longer cooperated with us. Because of this experience, we developed our own 40 line switch for the rural market, which can support 40 users. This switch is used by hotels and small companies. In the early days of our company, we relied on two multimeters and an oscilloscope to complete the development of the product. This is the beginning of our business.
After I left the army, I was repeatedly ill at work. Therefore, I also read a large number of law-related books and learned about two major factors in the market: products and consumers. The law governs the relationship between the two - the transaction. We obviously can't control our customers, so we can only catch the product. At the same time, we need to understand the law. Through self-learning laws, I realized that only by focusing on scientific research methods can we create new products.
Talking about the European market: customers already know us very well.
Hapar: Do you think that the United States is jealous of Huawei?
Ren Zhengfei: If they don't jealous of us, why do we say bad things everywhere?
Hapar: But the United States is also putting pressure on some European allies, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, to ask them to ban Huawei from participating in the construction of 5G networks. Do you still think that Europe welcomes Huawei, or a country rejects Huawei, which means that the entire EU will exclude Huawei from participating in 5G network construction?
Ren Zhengfei: First of all, I believe that after nearly 30 years of cooperation, our customers have already fully understood Huawei.
Second, the customer has the right to make his own choice. They will not give up really good products because of some politicians' rhetoric. Therefore, I don't think this will have a major impact on Huawei's business.
In Europe, we will encounter some difficulties in the short term, but these will not affect our business. I can share some company data with you. In the first quarter of this year, sales of our consumer business increased by nearly 70%. Network equipment sales fell 1.5% last year, but increased 15% in the first quarter of this year. These data show that we are still growing and there is no recession, so Huawei is not affected by external factors.
In the next five years, we will invest more than 100 billion US dollars in research and development to reorganize our network. In particular, we will develop the simplest network to ensure network security and protect user privacy. We will also increase our sales revenue, our current sales revenue is more than 100 billion US dollars, and our goal is to reach 250 billion US dollars.
When Europeans see the many efforts we have made, will they understand us? If they can understand, they will buy our products. But if they can't understand it, they may not buy our products. If this happens, then we will sell the product to other countries that recognize us. Although, our size may be reduced a little.
Talking about Trump: He is a great president, but he should be more friendly.
Hapar: Are you trying to contact President Trump and talk to him directly?
Ren Zhengfei: I don't have his phone number.
Hapar: So, you haven't had a conversation with Mr. Trump. But what do you think of his leadership style and strategy?
Ren Zhengfei: First of all, I want to explain that my evaluation of President Trump has nothing to do with his government's attitude toward Huawei. My point of view does not mean Huawei. It is only a personal opinion.
Well, I want to say that he is a great president. He is a president who can significantly reduce taxes in such a short period of time. His tax cuts help revitalize the business. With tax rates down to 12%, many companies can now transfer their funds from other countries back to the US. This has greatly helped the United States to increase their national reserves. Last year, the financial statements of many companies were not very satisfactory because they needed to pay the arrears of income tax. But this year, once the old accounts are cleared, the financial statements they released in July this year will look much better. The US stock market will grow significantly in July this year. The confidence of investors and consumers will also rise. The US economy may improve. This is due to Trump. Therefore, I said that he is a great president.
But he also has shortcomings. If President Trump continues to intimidate other countries and companies and continue to detain citizens at random, who else is willing to take risks to invest in the United States? People will worry about being trapped there. If no one dares to invest in the United States, how can the US government make up for the tax losses? The government may find that the fiscal deficit problem is difficult to resolve. When he decides to cut taxes, he must be hoping to attract more investment. But if investors worry that they can't return, they will not dare to invest in the United States.
Let's look at an example. If the United States opens its telecommunications industry, the country’s operators say they plan to buy tens of billions of dollars of equipment from us, and I won’t believe it or be willing to make such an investment. I will worry that they will withdraw without warning and stop doing business with us. In that case, the billions of dollars will be stranded in the United States. This is the drawback of Trump's way of doing things.
After the tax cut, he should be more friendly to other countries and try to convince everyone that the United States is a good place to invest. If everyone goes to the United States to invest, the US economy will grow substantially. The United States does not need to conquer the world through violence. They have excellent technology, skilled workforce and economic strength. Anything can help them conquer the world. They don't need warships to conquer the world. The cost of using warships is high. If they attack a country, the country will fight back," he said. "If a country is poor, they have nothing to lose, they are not afraid of being attacked. But the United States is in a different situation. This is a wealthy country, so it will suffer.
So even though I think Mr. Trump is a good president, he has not considered it in attracting foreign investment. Of course, I said these words as an outsider.
Ren Zhengfei: Cooperation and win-win. When two countries or companies meet, they must work together to achieve mutual success. The United States is a strong economy that offers many high quality products. China has 1.3 billion consumers. The United States needs China's market, and China needs American technology. The cooperation between the two countries can create two "trains" that pull the global economy out of the downturn.
I believe that China and the United States should emphasize cooperation and win-win. This is what I want to tell him the most.
Harper: Mr. Ren, you said before that the U. S. government had never looked at Huawei's technology or source code. Would you invite Donald Trump and his advisers to your headquarters in Shenzhen to show them your technology and reassure them?
Ren Zhengfei: I very much welcome them to visit us in Shenzhen.
Hapar: Let's talk about the US market. Obviously you have been away from this market for some time, and Huawei is currently suing the US government. Is your ultimate goal to return to the US market, or just want to give yourself a name?
Ren Zhengfei: We hope that the US government will treat us fairly without prejudice. Whether we can return to the US market depends on whether our consumers want to buy our products and not what Trump does.
Talking about intelligenceMobile phoneAnd Apple: Willing to sell 5G chips like Apple
Harper: now I want to switch to the bright spot of your company, your consumer products business, which is now a multi-billion dollar business. As you said before, you want Huawei to be the number one smartphone player. You used to think of Apple as an example. Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have succeeded in turning Apple into an iconic brand. Do you think Huawei has done that?
Ren Zhengfei: I think Mr. Jobs is a great person. When he died, I was on vacation with my family on the mountain. My little daughter is a fan of Mr. Jobs. She suggested that we stop to mourn Jobs, and we did the same. The greatness of Mr. Jobs is not that he founded Apple, but that he created an era of mobile Internet. To say that he is great is an underestimation of him, I think he is a super great person.
Apple is also a great company. The great thing about this company is that they are always making the market bigger, not smaller. Even if you sell umbrellas, Apple can sell high prices and maintain high quality. They have brought growth to the market and many other companies can survive. Now when I look back at Huawei's past in the telecommunications market, I find that we have actually made some mistakes. We are pricing based on cost, so the price of the product is relatively low. Our low cost is for two reasons. First, as our technology advances rapidly, we can continue to drive down the cost of our products. Second, because of the introduction of Western management methods, our operating costs can be maintained at a low level. As a result, we are able to keep the price of the product at a low level, which makes it difficult for Western companies to compete with us. This allows us to benefit a lot.
Later, we increased the price, and now many people think that Huawei's products are very expensive. After raising the price, we started to get more profit. But we will not distribute the extra profits to employees or shareholders. We will use this money to fund universities and research institutions to help with their research and exploration of the future. And this future may have a close relationship with our business, and there may be no contact at all.
Our investment strategy is this: If a technology is now 2 billion light-years away from us, we may invest a little bit of money on it, and the investment scale is like a sesame. If a technology is 20,000 kilometers away from us, we can invest more and be like an apple. If a technology is only a few thousand kilometers away from us, our investment will be even bigger, like a watermelon. If a technology is only 5 kilometers away from us, we will make a heavy investment (commercial version of Van Fleet ammunition). We will concentrate all our energy and move toward this technology at full speed. We will expand it and conduct more in-depth research. In this way, we are able to make the world's leading products.
Give you a simple example. The 5G technology is not the invention of Huawei. It is the invention of Erdal Arikan, a professor of mathematics at Turkey. In 2008, Professor Ariane published a mathematical paper. Our scientists found the paper and spent 10 years to turn his theory into today's 5G standard. So, in the United States, such a very attractive standard is actually developed from a mathematical paper.
In the future, we will make more investments in this direction. This can help us solve the problem of profit distribution and increase. We won't distribute the extra profits to our employees, or they will become overweight and can no longer move quickly. We will not distribute these profits to shareholders. If they make too much money, they will be obsessed with capital growth, so we will not do so. We need to distribute the profits reasonably, and we will put the money in the research of new fields.
Hapar: Some of your R&D budget is for 5G and chips, so you have your own 5G chip. Under normal circumstances, you will use the chip in Huawei's own products. Have you begun to consider selling your knowledge patent products, such as chips, to other third-party companies, such as Apple?
Ren Zhengfei: In this regard, we remain open to Apple.
Hapar: Mr. Ren, we talked about Apple and Jobs before. In China, you are seen as a very visionary in the technology industry. Jobs is more famous in the international arena, you are not as international as Jobs. What do you think is the cause of this situation?
Ren Zhengfei: Because I don't know much about technology, and I haven't invented anything.
Hapar: But you have built the world's largest telecommunications company.
Ren Zhengfei: I don't know much about technology, management or finance. I just played the role of “glue”, glued Huawei's 180,000 employees together and encouraged them to move forward steadily. Huawei's achievements are not created by itself, but the result of the joint efforts of 180,000 employees. So I can't have the same prestige as Jobs. The country used to want to award me a prize, but I feel very ashamed. I am not the person who created these achievements, so I should not receive this award.
Talking about the impact of technology on society: there should be no fear that artificial intelligence hinders social development
Hapar: Mr. Ren, I now want a more macro issue in the tech world. In the past few years, technology has developed very rapidly, and many people are now discussing the impact of technology on society. We are currently living in a highly interconnected world. Do you think technology is a good force or an evil force?
Ren Zhengfei: I think the speed of technology development will exceed our imagination. Some people have asked me what the world will look like in 20 or 30 years. My answer is that what the world will become after 2-3 years is hard to imagine.
When Huawei was just established, the degree of development of world communications was still very low. Today, just 30 years later, many of the most remote places in the world have high-speed networks. This situation exceeded the imagination of everyone at the time. In the next 20-30 years, technology will grow faster. Especially the generation of artificial intelligence, it has accelerated the speed of social development.
The development of several key technologies has spawned artificial intelligence: first, large-scale computing power. Second, ultra-high-speed Internet and large space storage systems, as well as micro-computing storage and edge computing. With the development of society, artificial intelligence has been realized. The speed of artificial intelligence has also surpassed our imagination, and it will greatly increase productivity.
For example, if artificial intelligence is applied to a tractor, they will be able to work 24 hours a day, they do not need to rest, just need to refuel. Therefore, productivity will increase dramatically. The increase in material wealth will also bring about a massive increase in culture. Therefore, artificial intelligence should be a good force.
Many scientists have also suggested that future genetic technologies may be able to integrate with electronic technology to create "new humans." This is currently a scientific fantasy, and it is very likely that it will not happen at all. But even if it does happen, it is at least 30 years later. At that time, we are likely to have found a solution to the problems that may arise from “new humans”. I think the current artificial intelligence has greatly improved production efficiency. This is a good thing for society, which can significantly enhance social wealth.
The United States has very advanced technology, but it also has shortcomings in terms of labor. With artificial intelligence, workers can increase their efficiency by a factor of 10, so that the United States will become a large-scale technology factory with a productivity equivalent to 3 billion people. They will produce more high-quality products that will exceed the amount that the entire world can consume.
So artificial intelligence can make the world a better place, not worse. Even if artificial intelligence brings other threats, we can manage it through laws and rules. Therefore, we don't have to worry too much about some of the claims that appear on the Internet.
Ren Zhengfei: I first heard about the threat of artificial intelligence to society, from Bill Gates (Bill Gates) and Stephen Hawking (Stephen Hawking). In a later speech, Gates changed his initial view that artificial intelligence could dramatically accelerate the development of society. Of course, we can still worry about the threat of artificial intelligence, but we will be able to control artificial intelligence for the benefit of mankind. Machine translation, for example, allows AI to translate text into 70 different languages at the same time, without harming anyone. It reduces the workload of many people. This does not mean that translators or stock analysts will lose their jobs. They can switch to other industries and play new roles. I don't think we need to worry too much about the adverse effects of this technology. Otherwise, we will hinder the development of science.
Hapar: One of the fears is that powerful technologies such as artificial intelligence are developed by some very large technology companies. Some people worry that these large technology companies will have too much power. Do you think that companies like yours have too much power and need to be regulated?
Ren Zhengfei: With the development of technology, the future world will become a world of “winners take all”. inOfficewithWindowsIn terms of which company can exceedMicrosoft? No. So Microsoft is the winner and the ruler market. More and more companies are using technology faster. This is because technology has no life and it can be widely used. For the regulation of new technologies, we support transparent regulatory rules and we are willing to accept such regulation. So we will tell the German government that we are willing to accept their supervision. However, the monopoly of this technology giant can actually benefit the world, not the world. What we, companies, are not nuclear bombs or weapons. What's wrong with translation software with faster computing power? Isn't it only that the slow calculations are good for us?
Artificial intelligence will benefit society. We should not worry that it will hinder the development of society. At the time of pea hybridization, Gregor Mendel (Gregor Mendel) first discovered genetic inheritance. Later, the discovery was considered useless and ignored for the next 100 years. After that, scientists realized the value of genes and DNA. At that time, China did not accept Mendel's theory, at that time we used Michulin's theory. This means that we were years behind in this field.
Today we often talk about genetic modification or genetic editing. People are not opposed to modifying the genes of plants. So why should we oppose the modification of human genes? When a disease has no treatment, perhaps we should consider genetic editing. Of course, after a few decades, genetic editing may produce other side effects that we are currently unpredictable, but it is better to deal with side effects than to face death immediately. It at least gives us time to find the real treatment. Natural blindness and deafness are the result of gene deletion. What if we can change the genes that cause these conditions? Google is currently using neural sensors to help the blind see the world, even though these sensors are not as accurate as human eyes. Technology is progressing. After 20-30 years, outstanding geniuses may combine genetic and electronic technologies to create "new humans." This idea will always make people feel scared, but now we are far from this goal.
Talking about retirement: We have many people who can inherit Huawei.
Hapar: Mr. Ren, the dialogue between us is coming to an end, I want to talk about your future. In the past 30 years, your company has grown to its current size under your leadership. Have you thought about retiring right away?
Ren Zhengfei: In the long run, I can tell you clearly that I will retire, because I will definitely not live forever. But in the short run, whether I retire depends on whether my energy can keep up with age. Maybe Google can make a medicine one day, making people immortal, but I may not see the day.
Hapar: When you finally retire, do you have plans for corporate heirs?
Ren Zhengfei: Huawei's future iterative inheritance system is clearly written in our management terms. If you want, we can give you a copy. Iterative inheritance must be done in an orderly manner. I am not authorized to designate the heirs. You don't have to worry about Huawei's future succession. In fact, we have a lot of people who can inherit Huawei, but Meng Xiazhou will certainly not be the heir.
Talking about future technologies: Huawei focuses on 5G, edge computing and cloud computing
Hapar: You just said that someone asked you 20-30 years later, but you don’t know what happens after 2-3. Please tell me, in your opinion, which technology will you develop rapidly in the next 2 years?
Ren Zhengfei: I think the technology with the highest degree of development in the future will be the experiment and application of artificial intelligence. Within Huawei, we have two main areas of concern for the future.
First, we want to provide the best interconnection in the world, and 5G is a part of the interconnection.
Second, we will strive to create the best edge computing in the world. We have abandoned supercomputing and intermediate computing, and we are only focusing on edge computing.
We are also working together with many vendors in the storage field in an attempt to do a better job of doing this because in edge computing, CPU either inserts storage devices or, in turn, stores them into CPU. This will change the architecture proposed by John von Neumann (John Von Neumann). Consolidation of storage and computing devices will allow the device to run faster. Of course, large devices still need to rely on an architecture that has no other elements, only computing, storing, and interconnecting originals, so we will also try to contribute to the cloud world. (Mul)