Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

Participants visit the booth of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.  at an auxiliary exhibition during the Global Industrial Internet Conference of 2021 in Shenyang, the capital of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, October 18, 2021. The Global Industrial Internet Conference of 2021 started here on Monday. Photo: Xinhua

Participants visit the booth of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. at an auxiliary exhibition during the Global Industrial Internet Conference of 2021 in Shenyang, the capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, October 18, 2021. The Global Industrial Internet Conference of 2021 started here on Monday. Photo: Xinhua

“Black technology”, brainstorming lectures, programming labs, free drinks and snacks, decorative balloons and music festivals … Huawei Developer Conference (HDC) 2021, also its biggest event every year in the hot southern city of Dongguan over the weekend, makes it difficult for me to imagine that the company is still struggling and suffering major setbacks under US sanctions.

Developers, media, students, analysts and Huawei fans, known as “huafen“from across the country are invited to gather on Huawei’s massive campus, which reportedly can accommodate up to 25,000 employees. The massive campus is designed to mimic various major European cities.

Huawei employees enthusiastically introduced and demonstrated the company’s latest technologies during the three-day event. The discussions are intense, collaboration agreements are piling up, and only through a few posters hanging in the lecture halls can I sense that the company is facing a tough time.

“You are in a race against time, your dedication is needed now more than ever,” read a poster in one of the buildings.

The reality, however, is cruel. The US ban on chip suffocation has already put a judicial stop to its rise as the world’s largest smartphone maker and resulted in a slippage of its smartphone market shares both at home and abroad – and these shares are still falling.

What’s worse, the telecommunications company known for its strength in 5G can only launch 4G smartphones now as it loses its advantage in the highly competitive industry. Its sales of telecommunications equipment in overseas markets are also suffering – some countries have called for its products to be removed, and others are creating increasing barriers to it, citing so-called national security risks.

“Huawei is still seeking survival” has been the most frequently heard phrase from its executives during all kinds of flagship incidents as well as analysts and experts over the past two years.

The survival-seeking Huawei was forced to transform from being a hardware manufacturer to a software provider. Its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS is breaking new ground in the operating system market, where there is a duopoly of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

“HarmonyOS, we made it!” Richard Yu Chengdong, the company’s rotating chairman, was thrilled to announce on his Weibo account, China’s Twitter – like social media on Saturday, marking a gradual success to the company’s ‘forced’ transformation, pointing to a clear path for the company.

“The future has tracks to follow,” is also the slogan for this year’s HDC.

Yu said the self-developed operating system, which was released after being banned from using Google’s services, has already attracted 1.5 billion users, the fastest pace ever for any operating system in the world.

It may still be too early to say whether HarmonyOS is a success, but there is no doubt that this is the first time the United States has experienced such strong resistance when using its “idiomatic tricks” on a company to preserve its hegemony in the economic and technological fields.

But the difficulties also seem to be inspiring hard work and more importantly, trust among the employees.

Last Friday, I saw lots of Huawei employees leaving their offices around 6 p.m. “It’s normal you can also see Huawei staff pouring out after 3 o’clock in the morning,” a taxi driver told me.

“They are rich and working ‘desperately,'” the driver said.

Some Huawei employees told me that they still believe that Huawei will regain lost ground globally, and their trust comes from the company’s many years of research input and cumulative experience and beating foreign rivals.

I’m still cautious about whether the company can still lead the future and win the battle with American tech giants, but I can feel that its history now inspires more companies in China to participate in the battle. Perhaps more foreign companies could follow suit to break the US monopoly.

It will bring changes in the future and make the technology really work for everyone and for good.

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