Ren had long said his children would not succeed him at Huawei. Meng, who has spent most of her career at Huawei in the finance department, was widely considered to lack the technical expertise that would allow Huawei employees to accept her as their leader. But her lengthy house arrest in Canada has boosted her popularity within the company and across China.
Meng burst into the international spotlight in December 2018 when she was arrested in Canada at the request of US authorities. Their detention sparked a global standoff after China jailed two Canadian nationals on vague charges in what Western officials described as an example of “hostage diplomacy.” Meng remained under house arrest in Vancouver for almost three years, fighting extradition to the United States.
She returned to China in September after striking a deal with the US Department of Justice in which she admitted helping to cover up the company’s direct dealings in Iran, in violation of US sanctions. While Meng admitted unlawful conduct, she was required to plead not guilty under a deferred prosecution agreement.
Huawei, which posted $100 billion in revenue last year, is the world’s largest telecom equipment supplier by revenue. The company’s global advance has raised concerns in Washington due to its close ties with Beijing and the importance of the telecoms sector in national security investigations and government surveillance.
Meng will retain her position as Chief Financial Officer. She replaces Guo Ping, who joined Huawei shortly after its founding and helped organize the company’s defense for its first major clash with the West, a Cisco Systems intellectual property lawsuit in 2003. The other two rotating chairs, Ken Hu and Eric Xu, stay put.
Huawei spokeswoman Evita Cao said in a statement Saturday that Guo is now chairman of the company’s supervisory board, which oversees top executives on behalf of shareholders. Cao said 131,507 Huawei employees hold shares in the unlisted company.
Ren has not announced when he will retire or what the longer-term succession plan will be. It has long been speculated that Ren will end up installing Meng as his successor.
Cao said Saturday that Huawei’s succession plan is based on collective leadership. “We can only ensure our survival and development by using collective wisdom,” she said.
Meng made her first public appearance since returning to China at an annual press conference on Monday.
“There have been tremendous changes in the world and in China in the past four years,” she said. “In the few months I’ve been back, I’ve tried to catch up. I hope I will catch up.”