China voices | The history of Huawei phones: Rise of the squares

5 min read
Two customers look at phone in one of the Huawei stores in Shanghai on March 23, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

How does an unassuming back-end hardware maker develop into a global phone giant? According to this pseudonymously published longform story on the Fantong Dai Laoban (Fat Boss Dai) WeChat channel, it takes farsighted executives willing to challenge their boss, “no bullshit” leaders, and huge investments in R&D.

The article traces the influence of machismo for good and for ill, describing the company’s key figures with the hard-to-translate term “hardcore straight guys” (yinghe zhinan)—a phrase that evokes competitiveness, bullheaded literalism, and indifference to the aesthetic—a mix of the American stereotypes of the logical nerd and the competitive bro. In short, a square.

What follows is a summary, translated and often paraphrased for brevity. All research is the original author’s, whose byli

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