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Huawei wants to go all in on AI for the next decade

By Michelle Toh, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) — Huawei has joined the list of companies that want to be all about artificial intelligence.

For the first time in about 10 years, the Chinese tech and telecoms giant announced its new strategic direction on Wednesday, saying it would shift its focus to AI. Previously, the company had prioritized cloud computing and intellectual property, respectively, over two decade-long periods.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s rotating chairwoman and chief financial officer, made the announcement in Shanghai during a company event.

“As artificial intelligence gains steam, and its impact on industry continues to grow, Huawei’s All Intelligence strategy is designed to help all industries make the most of new strategic opportunities,” the company said in a statement.

Meng said in a speech that Huawei was “committed to building a solid computing backbone for China — and another option for the world.”

“Our end goal is to help meet the diverse AI computing needs of different industries,” she added, without providing details.

Huawei’s decision follows a similar move by fellow Chinese tech giant Alibaba (BABA), announced earlier this month, to prioritize AI.

Other companies, such as Japan’s SoftBank, have also long declared an intent to focus more on the fast-moving technology, and more businesses have jumped on the bandwagon this year due to excitement about platforms such as GPT-4.

Meng returned to China in September 2021 after spending nearly three years under house arrest in Canada as part of an extradition battle with the United States. She and Huawei had been charged for alleged bank fraud and evasion of economic sanctions against Iran.

The executive, who is also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was able to leave after reaching an agreement with the US Department of Justice and ultimately having her charges dismissed.

Meng began her role as the rotating chairperson of the company in April and is expected to stay in the position for six months.

Hacking allegations

News of Huawei’s strategic update came the same day the company was mentioned in allegations lodged by China against the United States.

In a statement posted Wednesday on Chinese social network WeChat, China’s Ministry of State Security accused Washington of infiltrating Huawei servers nearly 15 years ago.

“With its powerful arsenal of cyberattacks, the United States intelligence services have carried out surveillance, theft of secrets and cyberattacks against many countries around the world, including China, in a variety of ways,” the ministry said.

It alleged that the US National Security Agency (NSA), in particular, had “repeatedly conducted systematic and platform-based attacks on China in an attempt to steal China’s important data resources.”

Huawei declined to comment on the allegations, while the NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular US business hours.

The claims are especially notable because US officials have long suspected the company of spying on the networks that its technology operates, using it as grounds to restrict trade with the company. Huawei has vehemently denied the claims, saying it operates independently of the Chinese government.

In 2019, Huawei was added to the US “entity list,” which restricts exports to select organizations without a US government license. The following year, the US government expanded on those curbs by seeking to cut Huawei off from chip suppliers that use US technology.

In recent weeks, Huawei has added to US-China tensions again after launching a new smartphone that represents an apparent technological breakthrough.

Huawei launched the Mate 60 Pro, its latest flagship device, last month, prompting a US investigation. Analysts who have examined the phone have said it includes a 5G chip, suggesting Huawei may have found a way to overcome American export controls.

— Mengchen Zhang contributed to this report.

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