The billionaire founder of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, rarely spoke to the media, allowing his company’s rapid growth worldwide to speak for itself.
This is changing as Huawei is threatened by a US campaign aimed at its global operations. Ren from 74 Now, you raise the curtain over your company, your family, and your life. He says the challenges Huawei faces are nothing but ordinary for him.
“I think there have always been difficulties in my life,” he told CNN in an interview on Wednesday. “I never had an easy life because when I was young, my family background was not good. I had to work hard to get job opportunities. ”
Ren’s time spent in the Chinese military has attracted a lot of attention.
Ren Zhengfei joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as an engineer in 1974, during the Cultural Revolution of China, when the country suffered from a severe shortage of food and clothing.
“At that time, there was chaos almost everywhere,” Ren said in January. He recalled that textile rations were so scarce that most people barely had enough to dress or mend their clothes.
Ren was commissioned to set up a chemical plant to manufacture textile fibers in the northeast from China, part of the communist government’s plans to ensure that every citizen had at least one decent piece of clothing.
“I was in college and people like me could play a big part,” Ren said. Zhengfei.
Ren and his military companions slept in precarious housing in sub-zero temperatures, living on pickled vegetables for months on end. But he said he was happy at the time, because while people elsewhere in China were being criticized for reading too many books during the Cultural Revolution, the factory was “probably one of the few places people could read.”
Ren said his hopes of becoming a lieutenant colonel in the PLA were undermined by his family background. During the Cultural Revolution, his father was labeled “capitalist” – someone trying to restore capitalism and overthrow socialism – which made it difficult for Ren to become a member of the Communist Party.
After Ren successfully rebuilt a tool that was needed to test equipment at the fiber mill, a supervisor helped him become a Party member. But Ren never reached the desired military post. His last work at the PLA was deputy director of a building research institute.
How to create a technological giant
Following the PLA, Ren spent a few years working for an oil company before founding Huawei in 1987.
The transformation of China’s market was in full swing and the country’s poor telecommunications infrastructure was delaying progress.
Developing the industry has become a priority for policymakers and three state-owned companies – Great Dragon, Datang, and ZTE ( ZTCOF ) – emerged as dominant players.
Huawei was an outsider, and was registered as a private company in Shenzhen, a fishing village that had just been designated as a Special Economic Zone in China.
In the beginning, the company marketed equipment and was classified as a minor supplier according to “ The Huawei Way “, a book by Tian Tao. Tao is a member of the International Advisory Board of Huawei, an affiliate with the company, and works at Zhejiang University.
Huawei struggled to gain market share, and Ren suffered from “serious depression and anxiety.” during the darkest days of the company, “wrote Tao.
Ren motivated employees to work long hours and do whatever was necessary to secure business. Unable to compete in big cities, Huawei initially focused on China’s small towns and villages. Ren invested heavily in research and development, allowing Huawei to create its own technology that would allow it to compete with its biggest rivals.
Work before family
Ren worked long hours, leaving him little time to build strong relationships with his three children.
He said that while in the army, he spent only a month for year with your family. After founding Huawei, “I had to fight for the survival of this company, and it went through 16 hours a day at the office, “he said.
Despite his limited time with his father, two of Ren’s sons chose to join him at Huawei.
Your eldest daughter, Meng Wanzhou, spent decades in the company, rising through the ranks to become the CFO. Its prominent position placed it at the center of the US government’s crackdown on Huawei. Meng was arrested in Canada in December and is fighting extradition to the United States to face charges of bank fraud and helped Huawei to violate sanctions on Iran. Meng Wanzhou denied any wrongdoing.
Ren said he is not close to Meng because his time in the army prevented him from relating to her when she was young. And while Meng is one of Huawei’s top executives, Ren does not directly supervise Huawei, he says, nor do they have a strong professional connection.
Ren’s son Meng Ping works at a Huawei subsidiary. Annabel Yao, your daughter from your second marriage, is study at Harvard University.
Ren said he has no close relationship with any of his children. He recalled once asking whether they would rather spend more time with their family or work to “build a platform on which to grow.”
His children, he says, chose the second option.