Here’s everything you need to know about Huawei, the Chinese tech giant accused of spying that the US just banned from doing business in America

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Kyodo News via Getty Image

  • Huawei, a Chinese tech giant, was recently put on a US blacklist that prevents it from doing business with US companies without first getting US government approval.
  • The US has long voiced concerns that Huawei technology has been used for Chinese government-sponsored spying, a claim the company has continually denied.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about Huawei and how it became viewed as a threat to US national security.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In a huge blow to Chinese tech giant Huawei, President Trump declared a national emergency Wednesday over “threats against information and communications technology and services” in the US.

The US has upped its fight in the last year against Huawei, which it suspects of spying for the Chinese government and posing a great risk to US national security.

Huawei has been barred from doing business with US companies unless it gets permission from the US government first. Federal prosecutors filed charges against the company earlier this year for alleged bank and wire fraud, and are still pursuing the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on charges she allegedly violated US trade sanctions.

For Americans, Huawei may not be a familiar name. But the tech giant is actually the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, behind only Samsung, after recently pulling ahead of Apple.

Here’s what you need to know about Huawei and its battle with the US government:


Huawei is a massive tech company producing telecommunications services, enterprise tech, and consumer devices, like smartphones. The company sells its products in more than 70 countries.

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Huawei surpassed Apple to become the second biggest smartphone seller this year.
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Shutterstock

Source: Huawei


The company raked in almost $93 billion in sales last year, which puts it about on par with Microsoft. Huawei is the largest maker of telecommunications equipment in the world and the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer behind Samsung.

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The Huawei Mate 20 smartphone.
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Shona Ghosh/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider, Forbes


Huawei was founded by Ren Zhengfei in 1987, and he still serves as the company’s CEO. Before Huawei, Ren worked as an engineer for China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army.

Ren is known internally as a philosopher entrepreneur, fond of proverbs and symbolism.

Source: Huawei


One example of Ren’s philosophical bent: There are several black swans that roam the company’s headquarters and swim in a special lake.

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A Huawei groundskeeper feeds black swans on Huawei’s campus.
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Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The black swans are there to represent “non-complacency within the corporate culture.”

Source: CNBC


Huawei’s headquarters is located in Shenzhen, China. While the company has an estimated 180,000 employees worldwide, it has 60,000 employees at its main campus alone.

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Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China.
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Herwin Thole / Business Insider

Source: CNBC


The research lab at Huawei’s main campus is reportedly nicknamed the “White House.” Visitors are rarely allowed inside to catch a glimpse of any of the company’s cutting-edge technology.

Source: Business Insider


Huawei recently built a new campus in the city of Dongguan in southern China. The Ox Horn campus is divided into 12 “towns,” each designed to mimic a different major European city.

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Huawei’s Ox Horn campus at Songshan Lake in China’s Guangdong province.
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Reuters/Tyrone Siu

Source: CNBC


The new campus has a lake and its own tram system. It can reportedly hold up to 25,000 employees.

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Reuters/Tyrone Siu

Source: Business Insider


Huawei smartphones are wildly popular around the world, and they often beat out iPhone sales because they’re cheap and powerful.

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Shona Ghosh/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


The company has tried to expand into the US market, but a possible distribution deal with AT&T fell through in January 2018. The company hasn’t yet found another carrier wanting to partner, which may be in part because of pressure from US officials who distrust Chinese companies. This has limited Huawei’s footprint in America.

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Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

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US lawmakers have long seen Huawei as a security threat, thanks to the company’s ties to the Chinese government. Some have floated the theory that Huawei’s phones and electronics are used to spy on US government officials. Huawei has consistently denied these allegations.

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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US concerns over Huawei go beyond cybersecurity, however. Federal officials have reportedly been investigating the Chinese company since 2016 for allegedly shipping products from the US to Iran — which would be a violation of US trading laws and sanctions.

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REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Source: Reuters


Trade relations between US and China have long been on shaky ground. The two governments have been locked in a trade war, and both have imposed billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on key imports.

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President Trump and China President Xi Jinping.
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Oliver Contreras/Getty; Greg Baker/Getty; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


However, relations between China and U.S. worsened in December when Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US. Prosecutors alleged Meng covered up Huawei’s links to a company that tried to sell equipment to Iran, violating US trade sanctions. The US has been trying to extradite Meng.

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Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei.
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REUTERS/Alexander Bibik

Source: Business Insider


Meng joined Huawei in 1993, and she now serves as the company’s chief financial officer and deputy chairwoman of the executive board. She also happens to be the daughter of Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei.

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Reuters

Source: Huawei


Meng’s arrest immediately escalated tensions between the US and China, coming right as leaders on both sides looked like they were going to come to some kind of agreement. This is being taken by experts as a signal of the Trump administration’s hard line on trade relations with China.

Source: Business Insider


The response to Meng’s arrest in China was swift. China warned the US and Canada of “grave consequences” if Meng wasn’t immediately released, and later made good on its threat by arresting two Canadian citizens, and sentencing another to death.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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Reuters/Pool

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As the crisis continued to escalate, Huawei CEO Ren made a rare public appearance in January to speak to the press for the first time since 2015. He called President Trump a “great president,” and pleaded with the US to foster a relationship of “collaboration and shared success.”

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Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei.
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The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


However, Canada approved extradition in March for Meng to face trial in the US. Until she’s actually sent to the US, Meng is under house arrest in Vancouver.

Source: Business Insider


Yet the issues Huawei face have kept piling on. US federal prosecutors allege the Chinese company stole trade secrets from US companies, including robotic technology used for testing smartphones from a T-Mobile facility.

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.
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Reuters

Source: Wall Street Journal


In January, US prosecutors formally charged Huawei and its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, with bank and wire fraud. In the indictment, the Department of Justice alleged that Huawei offered bonuses to employees who stole confidential information for them.

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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announcing charges against Huawei in January.
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REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Source: Business Insider


But Huawei is fighting back against the US. In March, Huawei filed a lawsuit against the US government over a law, enacted under Trump, that bans US federal government agencies from buying or using Huawei equipment. Huawei says the law is unconstitutional, and that the US government has “failed to produce any evidence” backing up claims that the tech company poses a security threat.

Source: Business Insider


The US and many of its allies continue to fear that Huawei is acting as a state-sponsored spying tool. Because of these growing security concerns, many countries — urged on by the US — have made moves to cut ties with Huawei and refuse to participate in the company’s plans to build a next-generation 5G cell network.

Governments that have considered cutting ties with Huawei include Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, Poland, New Zealand, and the European Union.


Trump amped up the pressure against Huawei in May by declaring a national emergency over “threats against information and communications technology and services” in the US. The US Commerce Department followed by adding Huawei to the “entity list,” which essentially blacklists the company from buying parts from US businesses without first getting US government approval.

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


In response, Huawei slammed the US for “unreasonable restrictions” that infringe on the company’s rights, arguing it will only hurt the US in its 5G network efforts in the future. Chinese citizens mocked Trump online for giving Huawei “free publicity” with its national emergency declaration.

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Reuters

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Despite the US crackdown, Huawei is thriving. Huawei reported it raked in more than $100 billion in revenue from sales revenue in 2018, up 19.5% year-over-year.

Source: Business Insider