Date
22 August 2019
Tencent founder and CEO Pony Ma said China's tech firms must take painstaking efforts to develop its own infrastructure and core technology. Photo: Bloomberg
Tencent founder and CEO Pony Ma said China's tech firms must take painstaking efforts to develop its own infrastructure and core technology. Photo: Bloomberg

Tencent’s Pony Ma on Huawei crisis: Beware of a looming tech war

In line with a trade blacklist order from the Trump administration, Google has announced that it is pulling Huawei’s license to use the Android operating system while US chipmakers such as Qualcomm are suspending shipment of crucial supplies to the Chinese telecommunications giant.

Amid this serious threat to Huawei’s global business, Pony Ma Hua-teng, co-founder and chief executive of Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings (00700.HK), said he is “very concerned” about the US actions on Huawei and No. 2 telecoms equipment maker ZTE Corp. (00763.HK, 000063.CN).

Speaking at the Yunnan International Smart Tourism Summit on Tuesday, Ma said he is paying close attention to whether the trade conflict between the United States and China would turn into a “tech war”.

Ma also said that with Chinese firms at the forefront of the global technology revolution, “there is less and less room for ‘borrowism’,” referring to the strategy of Chinese tech firms to borrow internet and technology ideas from the West over the past two decades.

“If we do not take painstaking efforts in developing our own infrastructure and core technology, the so-called ‘digital economy’ [in China] is hard to sustain,” he said.

For its part, Tencent has been establishing research and development facilities in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and robotics in the past two years, with the aim of bringing together top talents from these fields to explore cutting-edge technology.

The US Commerce Department last week blocked Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. from buying US goods, a move that is seen as an escalation in the Sino-US trade war.

In line with the trade blacklist, Alphabet Inc.’s Google decided to pull support from Huawei while US chipmakers such as Qualcomm and Qorvo suspended shipments to the Chinese company. Other US companies are expected to follow suit.

On Tuesday, the US temporarily eased the trade restrictions on Huawei, allowing the firm to continue buying US goods until Aug. 19 to maintain existing telecoms networks and provide software updates to its smartphones.

On the same day, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei told Chinese state media that the reprieve bore little meaning for the company as it had been making preparations for such a scenario.

He said the US restrictions will not hurt Huawei’s prospects, and that no other company will be able to catch up with Huawei in 5G technology in the next two to three years.

Speaking of 5G technology, Ma also mentioned in his speech that he expects China’s 5G networks will be commercially deployed on a large scale in the next two to three years.

With a network capability of supporting over 1 million mobile devices per square kilometer, China’s 5G technology can bring artificial intelligence into homes and spur the development of the industrial internet, he said.

Ma said Tencent aims to enable greater connectivity across industries and support the digital transformation of China’s economy.

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BN/CG

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