Huawei’s New Gadgets Reveal Hidden Teeth in China Tech Resistance

Despite U.S. restrictions on Huawei, exporters have sold large amounts of technology to the Chinese company.
Despite U.S. restrictions on Huawei, exporters have sold large amounts of technology to the Chinese company.


Huawei is out to prove it is in the vanguard of Beijing’s drive for self-reliance in technology.

TOKYO—Huawei, China’s rival to Apple in smartphones and the world’s leading provider of telecoms infrastructure, is out to prove it isn’t just surviving Washington’s campaign to crush it, but is in the vanguard of Beijing’s drive for self-reliance in technology.

After the buzz around Huawei’s new high-speed smartphones, which appeared to show that China can swerve around U.S. efforts to block its access to cutting-edge technology, the company on Monday unveiled its latest tablets, smartwatches and earphones—supported by a homegrown challenger to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, global standards in wireless communication.

Initially dubbed “Greentooth," a moniker ditched as too lighthearted, it was rebranded “NearLink," a short-range wireless technology that the company says combines the best features of both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi—and works with both. The protocol offers low-power, lightweight connectivity akin to Bluetooth, simultaneously catering to high-speed, large transmission, and high-quality connectivity needs akin to Wi-Fi. NearLink switches between modes based on the situation, Huawei says.

Set against the backdrop of increasing U.S. restrictions, Beijing has doubled down on efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in critical technologies. Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited private firms including Huawei last month, urging them to pursue international excellence and gain a competitive edge in the market through technological and product improvements.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both wireless communication technologies, enabling transmission of photos, documents and other data between compatible devices. Developing wireless communications tech requires expertise in multiple disciplines, including signal processing, wireless communication protocols and software development.

Apple has spent several years and billions of dollars trying, so far without success, to make its own wireless chip. The latest iPhone still depends on Qualcomm for that component.

Huawei holds tens of thousands of patents covering essential technologies for data transmission in phones. To access high-speed networks, handset manufacturers must obtain licenses from or cross-license with companies such as Qualcomm and Huawei.

From June 2021 to May 2023, Huawei trailed only Qualcomm in the number of wireless communication network technology patents it published, holding more than 8,000 more than third-placed Ericsson, according to a recent ranking from IPR Daily, a China-based media outlet focused on intellectual property. Ericsson was the inventor of Bluetooth, which is now overseen by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, or Bluetooth SIG, the standards organization that licenses the technology to manufacturers.

In Huawei’s case, it had its access to several major global technology associations restricted following U.S. sanctions. Without full access, the company’s devices, including phones, tablets and laptops, could face limitations in using vital features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Although it was later reinstated, it decided to develop its own technology, Huawei executive Wang Jun said in a 2021 interview with Chinese media.

Bluetooth SIG declined to comment on issues related to its members’ status. The Wi-Fi Alliance said at the time that it was complying with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s order by restricting Huawei’s involvement in certain activities, but it didn’t revoke its membership.

Huawei says NearLink uses less than half the power of Bluetooth, is six times faster, has 1/30th the latency or the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another, and supports 10 times the number of devices in a network.

NearLink technology was introduced in December 2021, with a focus on applications for cars. In August, Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business, announced its integration into the ecosystem of their self-developed operating system for consumer devices. As he delivered that presentation, the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi icons typically seen on smartphones converged on the screen behind him into a green “NearLink" icon.

Yu said on Monday the technology found applications in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, industrial manufacturing and more, providing the interconnectivity for Huawei’s homegrown ecosystem. NearLink may prove vital as Huawei struggles to cope with the impact of sanctions that made it difficult to source the advanced chips needed to power its devices.

Yu didn’t introduce the latest high-speed handsets during Monday’s presentation, saying only that the company is working extra hours to meet demand.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at last week’s hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee that while she was upset by the announcement of Huawei’s new smartphones, the U.S. couldn’t find evidence that the company is able to produce devices with advanced chips.

A report from Canadian semiconductor-information platform TechInsights said China’s biggest contract chip maker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International, made the core chip inside the device, but that it also contained memory components from South Korea’s SK Hynix.

China’s technological rise is intricately tied to its global ambitions, leveraging advancements to expand its geopolitical influence. One example is Beidou, a substitute for the U.S.’s satellite-based Global Positioning System. China has also set a domestic standard for a new way of designing chips, while global chip giants also formed a coalition to create them.

In September 2020, China formed an alliance for the country’s own short-range wireless technologies that now includes more than 300 companies and institutions—mostly domestic—including state-owned telecom carriers and makers of smart devices and cars such as Huawei, Oppo and BYD.

Huawei remains the world’s largest seller of telecom equipment, according to market-research firm Dell’Oro Group. It commands about a third of the global market, with sales about twice those of the second- and third-ranked suppliers, Nokia and Ericsson, Dell’Oro Group says.

Write to Yang Jie at and Newley Purnell at

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