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2019-06-11 10:52:54

SHANGHAI — Over 500 million people use Huawei products worldwide, but the Chinese tech giant will need more time to realize its goal of becoming the world’s biggest smartphone maker, one of the company’s top executives said Tuesday.

“If nothing accidental had happened, we could have become the largest in the fourth quarter (of this year),” Shao Yang, chief strategy officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group, said during a keynote address at the CES Asia consumer electronics expo in Shanghai.

“But now, we feel that this process may take longer,” Shao added, without elaborating on specific reasons.

Shao’s speech was the first to kick off the three-day event showcasing Asia’s tech trends, taking place weeks after the U.S. blacklisted Huawei and its affiliated companies in May, barring them from acquiring components and technology from American firms without express approval from the U.S. government. In the aftermath of the announcement, several American companies — including Google, Facebook, and Intel — severed ties with Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of telecom equipment and technology.

While Shao didn’t directly mention the tensions between the U.S. and China, he opened his speech with a quote that Huawei’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, had made during an interview with China’s state broadcaster, CCTV: “The present is not the most dangerous moment for Huawei; on the contrary, now is when we are at our best.”

Before the blacklisting, Huawei was well on its way to overtaking Samsung and becoming the world’s biggest phone maker, according to a report from Gartner, an American research and advisory firm. With Huawei taking a lead role in developing next-generation 5G mobile networks around the world, analysts are warning that its blacklisting by the U.S. could have a “dramatic impact” on the future standardization of 5G and lead to a “tech cold war” that would force countries aiming to develop 5G infrastructure to choose between China and the U.S. as their technology supplier.

If the rivalry were a race, China would already be well ahead. On Thursday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that it had granted 5G commercial licenses to four major Chinese telecom operators.

During his keynote address, Shao shared his enthusiasm for Huawei’s strategy of combining 5G, artificial intelligence, and “internet of things” to provide transcendent capabilities in transport and entertainment, as well as at home. The company introduced its strategy to create a “consumer hardware ecosystem” based on HiLink, its smart home system, and HiAI, its AI-powered open platform for mobile developers. At Huawei’s CES Asia booth, the company’s new 5G router — the Huawei 5G CPE Pro — was able to download a 1GB ultra-HD movie in just three seconds.

“People see 5G, but we see beyond that,” Shao said in his closing remarks. “What we will do is find our direction in the new round of competition.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the tech company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, May 24, 2019. Shen Qilai/Bloomberg via Getty Images)