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Trade war

Huawei is 'suffering the most' in US-China trade war, exec says

Rotating chairman tells Davos globalization is not a pursuit of one nation's 'supremacy'

Ken Hu, deputy chairman of  Technologies, spoke at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22.
Ken Hu, deputy chairman of Huawai Technologies, spoke at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22.   © Reuters

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Huawei Technologies Deputy Chairman Ken Hu told a gathering of world business and political leaders on Tuesday that the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker is bearing the brunt of the damage from the trade war between the U.S. and China.

Hu, who also serves as Huawei's rotating chairman, told a panel on digital economy at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum here that he has seen "a damaging effect on many companies including Huawei" in the trade war. Hu said that Huawei is "probably suffering the most right now."

In order to cope with the crisis, Hu said that simply being "reactive is not sufficient." He called for governments and companies to cooperate in coming up with a solution, as he believes that "we are at a turning point of restructuring the global economy."

Companies "should proactively join the process of [defining] the global economy," he also said.

The Chinese executive argued that the "current globalization is the result of competition and also cooperation based on comparative advantage." Therefore, he said, "it is not a pursuit by any single country of absolute supremacy." Hu did not point fingers at any country in particular, but his remarks hinted that the terms of globalization should not be dictated by the U.S.

Hu's remarks followed a rare media charm offensive last week by Huawei's reclusive founding Chairman and CEO Ren Zhengfei.

That Ren agreed to last Friday's news conference with Japanese media, which followed interviews with Western and Chinese media, hints at alarm at the tightening net around Huawei -- a serious problem for a company that has worked to penetrate foreign markets.

Huawei's rise also poses questions about how Chinese companies can fit into the global digital economy, given the Chinese government's heavy-handed approach to technology.

Panel member Eileen Donahoe, executive director of Stanford University's Global Digital Policy Incubator, said there is a "need for a new governance model" to prevent these core values like democracy and human rights from being compromised in an increasingly globalized and digital world.

"We don't need new values," said Donahoe, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council. "We have enduring values. We must protect them."

Asked how this relates to China, Donahoe told the Nikkei Asian Review following the panel discussion that "we need to hold strong and make it very clear that we are not going to throw out the window these enduring values as we move forward."

"They've got to pick their heads up and understand," Donahoe said. "There are some things that are not going to go away. Either they're part of it or not. They should be part of it."

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