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In response to some US lawmakers’ criticism of Huawei’s cooperation with universities, Xu Zhijun, the chairman of Huawei’s rotating company, recently wrote a rebuttal in the Financial Times, calling it “ill-informed”; The outside world transmits such information—Huawei sponsors American universities to conduct basic research, and the research results will benefit the public and will not pose a threat to the United States.
In the article, Xu Zhijun emphasized the importance of academic freedom, discussed the key role of university-enterprise cooperation in scientific and technological progress, and stated that Huawei does not expect to receive direct commercial returns when providing support. The research results are through professors, doctors and graduate students. Their papers are published publicly. In particular, he pointed out that it is a difficult and long process for any basic research project to benefit the society. It requires close cooperation between universities and enterprises. It requires countless scientists and engineers to work hard for a long time. Their efforts and contributions should be respected rather than arbitrarily accused.
The full text is as follows:
Not long ago, several US congressmen severely criticized Huawei and asked the US Secretary of Education to investigate whether the basic scientific research cooperation between Huawei and American universities would pose a threat to US national security. I think these behaviors show their ignorance of science. In an interview with the media recently, I mentioned that these criticisms are "ignorant."
I don't want to make a personal attack. Instead, I just want to emphasize the importance of academic freedom. Academic freedom is the basic attribute of modern universities and the cornerstone of all scientific and technological progress, helping to train the next generation of scientific research talents.
Academic freedom is the cornerstone of higher education. It is precisely because American universities can maintain academic freedom and are free from political and external factors that they have absorbed the best talents from the world to study and research in the United States, and have achieved the status of the United States as a global technology leader.
I am a doctor of engineering who has done basic research. According to the definition of the National Science Foundation, “basic research” refers to “activities that are committed to acquiring new knowledge or ideas, but do not consider specific processes or product applications.”
Corporate R&D activities focus on business applications, while universities focus on applications such as mathematics, algorithms, and materials science that are unlikely to generate revenue. Even if a research project ultimately yields returns, it can take decades from theoretical research to commercialization.
The cooperation between universities and enterprises can effectively shorten this process. The exchange of knowledge and resources (also known as “knowledge transfer”) between enterprises, academia and research institutions has become a key driver of technological advancement.
However, over the past decade, the federal government's funding for university research projects has continued to decline, and today accounts for less than 50% of the university's total research funding.
Most of the remaining funds come from sponsorships provided by companies such as Huawei. Huawei's research funding to US universities is relatively limited, about $10 million last year. But the support we provide is exactly what the university needs, including funding, venues, and lab equipment. At the same time, we have created a wealth of training and practical opportunities for graduate students and college students. When providing these support, we do not expect to receive direct commercial returns.
Huawei has funded American universities to conduct basic research, and the results of the research will benefit the public. It will not pose a threat to the United States as the outside criticism has said.
Our research results with universities are publicly available through papers by professors, doctors, and graduate students.
In 2017, Huawei invested US$13.8 billion in research and development. In the past ten years, Huawei’s global R&D investment totaled more than US$60 billion. Huawei has authorized nearly 80,000 patents in various countries around the world, including nearly 10,000 patents granted in the United States, and many of them are basic patents for the telecommunications industry. This is also a contribution to the development of the digital economy.
It is a difficult and long process for any basic research project to benefit the society. It requires the close cooperation between the university and the enterprise. It requires many scientists and engineers to work hard for a long time. Their efforts and contributions should be respected rather than blamed.
An open political leader should be committed to maintaining the academic freedom of American universities in order to advance the technological advancement of the United States. At the same time, political leaders must have the same deep insight, curiosity and truth-seeking spirit as the world's leading scientists.