2021 TIME100 Most Influential Companies
An installation of a 5G antenna in Bern, Switzerland on Mar. 26, 2019.
Peter Klaunzer—Keystone/Redux
April 26, 2021 10:01 PM EDT

To the U.S. government, Huawei is a Chinese Communist Party front intent on harvesting private data for nefarious goals. To the Chinese, it’s a paradigm of engineering excellence whose founder, Ren Zhengfei, is feted like Steve Jobs. What’s indisputable is that the Shenzhen-based firm is the world’s No. 2 cell-phone maker and top telecom-equipment manufacturer, embedded in the infrastructure of over 170 nations. Huawei’s leading role in developing 5G, a transformative technology that allows an exponential rise in download and upload speeds, prompted the U.S. to ban Huawei technology and campaign for allies to do the same; nonetheless, that push has done little to slow its ascent.

Write to Charlie Campbell at charlie.campbell@time.com.

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