Construction cranes at Huawei’s headquarters are expanding pressure, already a massive faux-European campus that Walt Disney would envy, as well as an internal “university” that trains the growing global workforce of the Chinese telecom giant.
If the United States hoped to keep the company on track, that is not yet the case.
An escalating US effort to block the supply of vital semiconductors to a company it sees as a security risk speaks once again to Huawei officials and staff of a sense of “crisis” on the massive campuses in and around South China Shenzhen city.
But despite Washington’s 18-month campaign – and the current coronavirus pandemic – the company’s workforce and ambitions continue to grow.
The new US pressure “has of course raised some concerns,” said Ryan Liu, deputy director of Huawei University.
“But I have worked for Huawei for many years and we are confident that the company will guide us on the right path.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce said on Friday that it is sharpening efforts to deny Huawei access to global semiconductor supplies.
Huawei said Monday that the action will disrupt global supply chains and threaten the company’s “survival.”
“Following the spirit of the statement would have a major impact on Huawei,” said Kelsey Broderick, an analyst at Eurasia Group consultancy.
Huawei’s ability to find homegrown replacement chips is “low” at best, she said.
But Washington has repeatedly deferred previous sanctions against Huawei, and the US may face opposition from US and foreign chip makers who would suddenly lose Huawei orders.
“Questions remain as to how strict the verdict will be in both enforcement and enforcement,” Broderick said.
Huawei – a dominant presence in Shenzhen, the headquarters for a number of major Chinese tech titans – is projecting a business-as-usual front.
Since Washington named the company as a proxy target in the broader US-China trade battle in late 2018, its global workforce has now grown from 180,000 to 194,000, company officials say.
Despite the pressure, it announced 19 percent growth in its global operations in 2019.
The expanding “European village” complex, with 25,000 employees, extends around a lake, connected by red and orange trains that stop at stations such as “Paris”, “Bologna” and “Heidelberg”, each with squares and architecture that recall to those cities.
Eleven such themed areas are ready and another one is being built.
Meanwhile, Huawei University is moving to newer and larger European-style facilities in August.
Washington fears that China could use Huawei’s telecom networks worldwide for espionage or cyber sabotage.
The company is expected to become a world leader in the upcoming fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks, and Washington has lobbied other countries to shun its equipment over potential security threats.
But current chairman Guo Ping said this week that the US is driven by a fear of losing the technological advantage of Chinese companies, and Huawei officials have consistently said that Washington’s threats are only going to make it stronger.
The staff reiterates that by telling AFP that the US wants to deny access to Google services on its Android smartphones, Huawei has sped up production of its own HarmonyOS operating system, which was unveiled last year.
“I got prouder”
Semiconductor disruptions will also fuel Huawei chip unit HiSilicon’s efforts to develop its own inventories.
“This challenge will create an acute sense of crisis, but our answer is to do our job well and trust that hard work will pay off,” said Liu.
Huawei University closed its 40 physical classrooms after the coronavirus broke out in late January.
But after enlisting online courses for staff in China, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere, personal classes resumed in May, Liu said.
Courses include high-tech topics, management and a two-week ‘boot camp’ for new employees – complete with morning training – on corporate culture and dealing with workload.
Lessons are now busier than ever to handle the pent-up demand from the closure, Liu said.
New course content includes understanding and coping with the mental stress of American pressure.
“The world is now full of uncertainty and we need to adjust our way of thinking,” said Liu.
Zhu Anran, 36, recently hired for a construction and infrastructure department, said US pressure is on the lips of his fellow inductees.
But he didn’t have to worry about joining Huawei.
“As a Chinese, I am more proud to join such a company as Huawei.”
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