On May 15, 2019, Donald Trump banned the use of telecom equipment in the USA from companies that pose a security risk to the country, including Huwaei. The next day, Gilles Babinet, Advisor on digital issues at Institut Montaigne, visited Huawei's offices in Shenzhen. He shares his experience with us here.
Note de voyage du 16 mai 2019
It is difficult not to be impressed by the majesty and importance of Huawei's headquarters, which covers several square kilometres, even when you have been to dozens of buildings of major technology companies.
The huge building dedicated to research and development (R&D) resembles more a luxury palace, with its marble floors and walls and carefully arranged artworks, than a research centre. The showroom, disproportionate, illustrates perfectly Huawei's strategic projection, product line by product line. The significant lead this company has taken becomes easier to understand, especially in an area where investment power and therefore critical size are decisive. Huawei now spends $15 billion a year on R&D (more than Apple, which in 2018 spent $14.24 billion) and should, due to the interruption in the supply of strategic American components such as Qualcomm's, significantly increase this amount to become, in a few years, the world's leading company in R&D spending (today the ranking is dominated by Amazon, with $22.6 billion in 2018).
My visit to them was made particularly interesting by the announcement on the same day of the near total boycott of Huawei by the Trump Administration (no more sales of US components and software services to Chinese companies and no more purchases by US telecom operators of equipment manufactured by companies that pose a security risk to the country, including Huawei). Nevertheless, my interlocutors were calm, transparent and particularly precise in their answers. They made sure, each time we finished addressing one of the major themes on my agenda, that their answers provided adequate clarification. I spent three hours discussing piracy charges, cyber risks and audit models that would create transparency about their technologies, technology transfer issues, and how they plan to deal with Donald Trump's executive order.