Step through the gates of Huawei Technologies Co.’s sprawling campus in southern China, and you’ll see a workforce in frenetic motion. Neon-green minivans ferry workers between offices around the clock. Fluorescent lights burn through the night. Employee canteens are open until near midnight.
China’s largest technology company has thrived on what some employees and outsiders call its “wolf culture.” The take-no-prisoners approach is amplified now that Huawei is at war with President Trump, fighting back against his efforts to cut off its markets and customers and deprive it of critical technology. On May 17, the U.S. Department of Commerce added Huawei to a blacklist of companies that blocks it from buying American software and components it needs to make its products.
Huawei has assigned as many as 10,000 of its developers to work across three shifts a day in offices in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi’an to try to eliminate the need for American software and circuitry, according to people familiar with the matter. From janitors to drivers, everyone has been drafted into the struggle and told to brace for escalating political and market pressure. Huawei has declined to comment beyond saying it’s had contingency plans in place for just such an occasion.
Engineers in some groups haven’t gone home for several days, one person says, asking not to be identified when discussing internal matters. Among other items, the person says, the developers are working on base-station antennas, a component that U.S. companies such as Rogers Corp. manufacture for a market they dominate, and tweaking the design of entire 4G base stations, which compete toe-to-toe with products from Ericsson AB and Nokia Corp.
“It’s not a question about if we can win—we have to win,” says a Huawei engineer, the head of a small research and development team responsible for communication chips