End of Tech War? China’s Huawei CEO Offers to Sell 5G Expertise to US Firm

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) is shown around the offices of Huawei by its founder Ren Zhengfei

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) is shown around the offices of Huawei by its founder Ren Zhengfei in London during his state visit on October 21, 2015. MATTHEW LLOYD/AFP/Getty Images

Huawei Technologies, China’s largest privately owned telecom company, has been at the center of a yearlong trade and tech war between the U.S. and China. Among the many economic and tech issues the two countries can’t agree on, a key topic of dispute is Huawei’s industry-leading position in the race for 5G networks, widely believed to be a defining technology in the future world order.

Huawei’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei is a former military officer with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Because of Ren’s history with China’s military and Huawei’s opaque business practices (due to its private status), the U.S. government is concerned that the firm could act as a proxy for the Chinese government to threaten America’s national security if Huawei’s 5G networks are widely adopted by U.S. companies and consumers.

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But now, Ren has an unusual offer for America that would quell all of these worries: selling Huawei’s 5G technology to a U.S. company.

In an interview with The Economist on Tuesday, Ren said his company may offer to bundle up its 5G patents, licenses, code and technical blueprints in a potential one-off transaction to a foreign firm.

Ren didn’t say who the possible buyers might be or what price ranges he’s looking at. The Economist‘s Asia correspondent Hal Hodson, who interviewed Ren in China, estimated that the transaction could be worth tens of billions of dollars given the amount of money Huawei has put into research on 5G.

“A balanced distribution of interests is conducive to Huawei’s survival,” Ren told Hodson.

5G, like our current 4G networks but much faster, is expected to be the infrastructure for next-generation communication, connecting everything from cellphones and tablets to military planes and satellites.

Huawei was blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department in May, which prohibited it from buying technology and components from U.S. suppliers, a key link in its operation.

Since then, Huawei has won two 90-day reprieves from the supply ban to allow time for both itself and its American suppliers to attend to remaining businesses. Washington has yet to make a final decision on whether or not to block Huawei permanently as trade negotiations with China continue.

End of Tech War? China’s Huawei CEO Offers to Sell 5G Expertise to US Firm