The Telia and Huawei headquarters in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo: iStock

How many years will it take China to catch up with America in terms of technological development? To Huawei Technologies, it would mean more than half a century before the world’s second biggest economic power can catch up with the biggest one.

In an internal memo, Huawei chairman and founder Ren Zhengfei said the gap between China and America would not be eliminated in the next 20 to 30 years, or even 50 to 60 years. “We must survive – this was the lowest agenda, but now this is our top agenda,” said Ren, whose transcripts were leaked in the WeChat platform.

China’s No.1 telecom equipment producer submitted a written paper to the Federal Communications Commission in the hope of lifting a ban on selling equipment in the United States.

In the paper Huawei, the world’s No.3 mobile maker behind Apple and Samsung, said it has been artificially restricted by unfounded allegations and suspicions based solely on misperceptions about its relationship with China’s government, saying the ban was unlawful.

Huawei and its counterpart ZTE Corp are seen as foreign telecom players that could pose national security risks to the US. But the US temporarily eased part of a ban to ZTE, which could resume some business with American companies after ZTE agreed to pay a US$1 billion fine and replace its management team for its trade with Iran and North Korea.

For Huawei, the threat to the US seemed to be much higher because of its dominance in emerging markets in the telecom space. Huawei took the unusual step of publicizing the minutes of a high-level meeting in which he highlighted the symbiotic Sino-American relationship.

“The US-China trade dependency is mutual and extensive, I don’t foresee strong conflicts,” Ren was quoted as saying. He added that American communications technology crested in the 1960s “when we were mere college students.”

Huawei plans to buy about 50 million chips from Qualcomm, a firm which Ren said would never stand on the other side of the table. While Ren’s view on China’s technological development is debatable, Beijing has never officially admitted that China lags behind western countries in technology. Most Chinese businessmen also avoid talking about this sensitive topic publicly.

In May, Tencent chairman Pony Ma Huateng said in a public speech that China’s scientific research remained weak, referring to the recent setback of ZTE in the US. A few days later, Xinhua launched an attack against online game developers led by Tencent for ignoring instructions from ministries by launching games they say poison children’s minds. The criticism fueled speculation that Beijing was punishing Ma for his bold speech.

Last month, it was rumored that Beijing had told local media not to promote “Made in China 2025,” which was launched by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2015 in a bid to give confidence to the Chinese manufacturing sector.

The word “technology” is one that is now not being used too often in China.

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