Ren Zhengfei is the world’s most controversial businessman. At home, the founder and CEO of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei is a heroic entrepreneur who has proved China can compete with the West in the most cutting-edge industries. To his detractors, Ren is a potentially lethal security threat whose gear could be manipulated by Beijing to disrupt communications and steal secrets. The company denies it would ever spy on anyone, but U.S. lawmakers, alarmed by Chinese cyberattacks, have moved to block Huawei in the American market. The secretive Ren doesn’t help his cause by managing Huawei in an opaque fashion and rarely appearing in public. “People in the industry often say Ren Zhengfei is as mysterious as he is great,” he once told Huawei employees. What a perfect self-portrait.
Schuman is TIME‘s economics correspondent in Beijing
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