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Huawei founder says 'there's no way the US can crush us'

Ren Zhengfei tells the BBC the world needs Huawei because it's "more advanced." He also denies spying allegations.

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Huawei's founder says the company has options if Western countries turn their backs on it.

Lionel Bonaventure / AFP / Getty Images

Ren Zhengfei, Huawei's founder and president, reckons the world needs his company's "more advanced" technology.

The saga of the Chinese telecom has led the US to pressure its international allies to drop Huawei from their 5G rollouts, but Ren told the BBC on Monday that this tactic won't work.

"There's no way the US can crush us," he said in a rare interview. "The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit."

He noted that the Huawei has plenty of options for expanding its business.

"If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine," he said. "And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn't represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world."

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The founder addressed the December arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, his daughter and Huawei's chief financial officer. He called the arrest a "politically motivated act" that he objects to. However, he wants to let the court system iron things out.

Ren also strongly denied that his company spies on China's behalf -- the main reason why Huawei networking equipment has been banned in the US since 2012.

"Our company will never undertake any spying activities," he said. "If we have any such actions, then I'll shut the company down."

He reinforced this point in a separate CBS News interview that will air Wednesday -- an excerpt was released Tuesday. In the interview, he was asked whether Huawei's products could have a backdoor that shares customer data with China without his knowledge.

"It is not possible. Because across our entire organization, we've stressed once and again that we will never do that. If we did have that, with America's advanced technology, they would found that already," he told CBS News.

In the BBC interview, Ren promised Huawei would "continue to invest in the UK," which reportedly went against the US in concluding that using the company's equipment in its 5G networks is a manageable risk.

"If the US doesn't trust us, then we will shift our investment from the US to the UK on an even bigger scale," he said.

Ren seldom speaks to foreign media, but he's already done so several times in 2019. In January, he praised President Donald Trump and said that Huawei is "only a sesame seed" in the China's trade war with the US.

First published Feb. 19 at 7:03 a.m. PT.
Update, 7:57 a.m. PT: Adds quote from CBS News interview.