Ren Zhengfei Biography
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Born in: Zhenning Buyei and Miao Autonomous County, Anshun, China
Famous as: CEO of Huawei
father: Ren Moxun
mother: Cheng Yuanzhao
children: Annabel Yao, Meng Wanzhou, Ren Ping
education: Chongqing University
Ren Zhengfei is a Chinese engineer and businessman, better known as the founder and CEO of ‘Huawei,’ the world's largest manufacturer of telecommunications and mobile phone infrastructure equipment. In the first quarter of 2019, Ren Zhengfei’s ‘Huawei’ overtook ‘Apple’ to become the second-largest manufacturer of smart phones, after ‘Samsung.’ However, Ren Zhengfei was not originally trained in communications or electronics. Ren studied construction engineering at the ‘Chongqing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture’ (now ‘Chongqing University’) and subsequently worked as a civil engineer before joining the ‘People’s Liberation Army’ (PLA) where, because of his background and experience in construction, he was assigned to work on the development of a chemical fiber factory in the far north-east of China. When the ‘PLA’ disbanded its entire ‘Engineering Corps,’ Ren left the army and worked in the logistics division of the ‘Shenzhen South Sea Oil Corporation’ for a few years. However, dissatisfied with his job there, he later founded his own little company. ‘Huawei’ was originally a communication equipment reseller, installer, and maintenance operator, but Ren Zhengfei always wanted the company to design and manufacture its own equipment. As its CEO since 1988, he has led the company to a huge success in that area. He has also become one of the richest men in China.
- Born in 1944, into a rural family of school teacher parents, Ren Zhengfei spent his own school years in the remote town of Zhenning, in a mountainous area of Guizhou Province. Back then, it was one of the poorest regions in China.
- From 1963, Ren attended a local college named the ‘Chongqing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture’ in the city of Chongqing, then administratively part of the neighboring province, Sichuan. This institute was more than 400 miles away from his home. This was also the beginning of the nomadic journey of Ren, which had a huge impact on his social and family life.
- On graduating, Ren Zhengfei worked as a civil engineer until 1974, when at the age of 30, living amidst the chaos that enveloped China during the ‘Cultural Revolution,’ he decided to join the ‘PLA.’
- Accounts vary as to what Ren Zhengfei’s actual role in the ‘PLA’ was, but he was eventually promoted to the post of deputy director (equivalent to deputy regimental chief, but without military rank). This was apparently associated with a construction research institute, but it seems clear that it was back then that Ren became involved in electronics and communication R&D.
- Because of perceived “outstanding performance” at this stage of his career, Ren was invited to attend the ‘National Science Conference’ in 1978 and the 12th ‘National Congress of the Communist Party of China’ (CPC) in 1982, cementing his ties with the party, which had proved problematic earlier because of his humble beginnings, and his father’s connections with the ‘Kuomintang.’
- Although Ren Zhengfei had a rich and varied career through his 30s and early 40s, it is for his decision in 1987 to found a service provider for the rapidly expanding private phone market in China that he will always be recognized.
- Due to the anti-West, anti-technology attitudes that were prevalent throughout China prior to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, along with the huge degree of dislocation and poverty caused by the subsequent Sino–Japanese war (1937–1945) and the establishment of the ‘PRC’ in 1949, China lagged well behind the West in terms of technology. They were particularly lagging behind in the penetration of personal communications. Ren Zhengfei’s great insight in 1987 was that China was at last ready for a big leap in personal communications, both in terms of a massive expansion of landline usage in cities and the introduction of the mobile ‘car-phone’ technologies that had recently boomed in both Europe and America.
- Huawei’s first contract, worth a mere $5,000, was with a Hong Kong-based importer. They were to resell, install, repair, and maintain the then-new digital switch exchanges, which were being deployed throughout China. However, Ren Zhengfei’s avowed intent was to always be a technology company and a manufacturer.
- Ren Zhengfei’s primary talent seems to have been the ability to retro-engineer: to pull apart an existing product and work out what it does, how it does it, and how it was manufactured. The next step in the process of this type of engineering is to work out how to manufacture it better and cheaper. It was this area that Ren Zhengfei and ‘Huawei’ excelled in.
- Ren was able to retro-engineer an electronic tool that was required to test key equipment in the man-made fiber factory he built while he was in the army. This subsequently helped him develop good terms with the ‘CPC.’ Throughout its early years, ‘Huawei’ excelled at retro engineering, as Ren Zhengfei oversaw the gradual growth of the company’s own R&D capabilities.
- In 1992, Ren pushed ‘Huawei’ to develop the C&C8 switch, which the company sold at one-third of the competition’s price. This helped ‘Huawei,’ through Ren’s now-excellent contacts within the ‘CPC,’ to agree to several huge public-sector technology deals. Thus, the future of ‘Huawei’ was secured, and Ren’s status in China as one of the country’s foremost technology leaders was assured.
- Ren Zhengfei now serves as a deputy chairman of the board of directors. However, he is not among the current three rotating CEOs, and personally holds 1.42% of the shares of ‘Huawei,’ valued at over US$2,200 million in 2018. As of February 2019, he had an estimated net worth of US$3.3 billion.
- Ren Zhengfei’s ties with both the ‘PLA’ and the ‘CPC’ have often been cited by governments and communication agencies around the world as a security concern. It is suspected that ‘Huawei’s communication equipment could be rigged to allow spying on users by the Chinese government. No evidence has ever been produced to support this view, but it persists and has led to ‘Huawei’ withdrawing from the US consumer market and, to all intents and purposes, being banned from doing any business with the US or US companies. Ren Zhengfei himself has strenuously denied these accusations and has even offered customers a “no-spying” guarantee.
- Ren Zhengfei’s eldest daughter, Meng Wanzhou, who is the deputy chairperson and CFO of ‘Huawei,’ is currently being held in supervised custody in Canada, pending extradition to the US on various charges related to bank and wire fraud.
- Ren Zhengfei has not publicly commented on the widespread speculation that this disruption has been part of an organized campaign to try to reduce ‘Huawei’s dominance of the worldwide communication system market and to influence the ongoing trade talks between China and the US.
- Ren Zhengfei was born on October 25, 1944. He married his first wife, Meng Jun, in 1970. They have two children: a daughter, Meng Wanzhou, and a son, Ren Ping, both of whom work for ‘Huawei.’
- After Ren Zhengfei’s divorce from Meng Jun in 1988, Ren married Yao Ling, with whom he had another daughter, Annabel Yao. Annabel is a ballet dancer and a computer science student at ‘Harvard University.’
- It has recently been reported that Ren has got married for the third time, to his former secretary, Su Wei. However, this news is unconfirmed, and Ren Zhengfei continues to refer to Yao Ling as his wife.
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