Huawei's Ren Zhengfei's Send Off to Honor + Tweets of the Week
Baby Yoda Eats Dim Sum, 'Love is a Hot Potato', Ming Dynasty Cards Against Humanity, Stealing Dings and Calligraphy
Last week, Huawei announced that it would sell off its Honor brand, the lower end counterpart to its flagship Mate and P series. Last year, I translated a deep dive into the origins of the Honor line, which has grown into one of the world’s most successful smartphone brands raking in annual revenue in the order of tens of billions.
On November 25th, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei sent out a letter at the Honor farewell party that I translated below in full. It provides a fascinating window into his management thinking and has received praise across the Chinese internet. The letter is a brief encapsulation of his worldview, reflecting his views on management, competition, and even relationships and parenting. It reads a bit like, as Wang Feng described it, a “chatty dad at the train station” as their kid leaves for college. I got a bit of a Polonius ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’ vibe. There are a ton of mixed metaphors (see this thread for evidence of the pain I endured translating this) that would not have made it past a speechwriter, leading me to believe Ren wrote this himself.
We are set to part, after having been together for more than ten years, and it pains me. We are living in interesting times, but also in a most difficult period. We started out as just a small seedling, yet these two years of storms did not break us, and through these tribulations, we may very well end up blossoming and flourishing. [Alternatively, ‘through these tribulations, we grew into an iron tree, and iron trees can end up blossoming.] But there is nothing to send you off, except for the yellow leaves blown off the ground by the autumn wind.
Why Strip Away Honor?
Huawei has been under waves of severe sanctions from the U.S., making us finally realize that some U.S. politicians are not trying to have us correct our ways, but rather simply to kill us. As far as Huawei's short-term difficulties, we can endure alright. But we don't want to drag innocent people down with us because we are suffering. Work for agents and distributors in 170 countries has dried up because of the lack of water in the channel, which will lead to millions of people losing their jobs; the suppliers are also backlogged because we can't make purchases, and sales are down, dragging down the stock price.
What have they done wrong? Why can't we take on some of their burden? After all, you [Honor employees] are the ones who go with them to make the dried-up channels full of water when the water supply is not cut off. But you are not saviors, you have to maintain the right attitude of religious devotion to your customers, faithfully protecting their interests, and sincerely respecting commitments to your suppliers. The spirit of [respecting] contracts is the basis of your invincibility. Honor is the production of medium and low-end products, after the divestiture of Honor, the leadership of the company will be able to quickly resume production, solving the challenges of upstream and downstream partners.
We have been together for more than ten years, and our strict management has transformed your group of young and romantic intellectuals into hard-working "warriors." In the past, some of our methods were too harsh [literally 生冷, raw and cold, usually used to refer to food in China like carrots which are rarely eaten raw], and for that, I apologize. With the same reluctance, I bid you farewell today.
How To Handle This Well
The first thing to do is to restore the supply channels as soon as possible, because if the channels are dry for a long time, the grass will dry up and it will be difficult to restore life. ‘Water, Water Water’ the Dai ethnic group shouts, showing just how important water is to life.
Embrace global industry resources and build relationships with suppliers as quickly as possible. Supply is a very complex and multifaceted issue that is more difficult for you than it is for any other new company. Overcoming this issue will be the opportunity to show yourselves for the heroes you are. Insist on learning from the best, including those you don't like.
Steadfastly embrace globalization, and strengthen your embrace of British, American, European, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean companies. The U.S. is a global technology powerhouse, and many of its companies are excellent.
You have to maintain the good traditions you have formed, and your managers and specialists have to be globalized, specialized, and diversified. In addition, aside from localizing staff, you have to decentralize carefully, taking care to avoid the creation of fiefdoms that don’t listen to orders from the center. [A little window onto how he thinks about managing Huawei’s international expansion…]
A reasonable system to let employees go is a complement to positive incentives that energize the whole team. You need to respect people, evaluating them in a scientific manner, while continuing to hold them accountable.
Keep your eyes on the prize, insist on action and innovation, never allow the team to gradually fall into disorder.
Become Huawei’s Strongest Global Competitor, Aim to Surpass Huawei, So Much So That You Shout “Overthrow Huawei”
Insist on improving yourself, and work hard in the right direction; insist on making the organization vibrant, so that employees have a strong will and desire for victory. Resolutely oppose internal corruption and all acts of corruption and theft. Adhere to the beneficial habits and systems of the past, the process of scientific and comprehensive management of the team, and calmly march forward. There will be setbacks, don't panic. Give more play to the power of collective thinking, bold decisions, and do not take arbitrary action. Move forward as one.
Today is our "divorce" ceremony, so I won't dwell on that. Once the "divorce" is final, we shouldn’t still long for each other anymore. We are adults, we can deal rationally with the separation, in strict compliance with international rules, for each of us to achieve our own goals. [Ren is on his third marriage]
You can't be like a newlywed, constantly playing hot and cold, too involved and without clear boundaries. Don't feel sorry for Huawei, go think about your future! We will soon be competitors. You can hold "foreign guns" and "foreign artillery" [aka foreign chips and Android], while we hold the new "Hanyang 88" [the Chinese-made bolt action rifle, referring to domestic technology] and the new "sword and spear.” Who will come out on top? We won't be polite to you. If one of you yells “overthrow Huawei,” that makes you a hero, and under no circumstances take it easy on us.
China Twitter Tweets of the Week
Kicking things off with a tweet of the year contender…
邦尼王子查理 @moghilemear13"一令要千家诗一句，下取大明律一句断之" 明代酒令真有趣 https://t.co/DNQQVdUEEw
Helen Wang @HelenWangLondon"Bronze Weapons of the Qin Terracotta Warriors: Standardisation, craft specialisation and labour organisation" - by Xiuzhen Li (BAR, 2020) https://t.co/pfkq5xluma HT @WenYiHuang1 https://t.co/OAkwc9U1kA
Here are the names of the craftsmen on a spearhead!