The recent escalation in trade tensions between the United States and China has already put the world's second-largest smartphone maker in a difficult spot. President Trump placed Huawei on a list of entities that U.S. companies are prohibited from working with, which resulted in Google blocking the company last week from future access to Android software.

The situation for Huawei is definitely dicey, and U.S. companies face a significant threat if China responds by banning American products. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Apple is preparing for that headache--a potentially major one, considering that Apple generates almost 20 percent of its sales in China.

You would think that would be good news for Huawei. What company wouldn't want the government to eliminate one of its biggest competitors? Yet, CEO Ren Zhengfei sees things differently. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Ren said that China shouldn't respond in kind--and that if it did, he'd "be the first to protest."

No one could blame Ren if he had responded differently. Right now, his company faces a multi-front battle that includes finding a replacement operating system for mobile devices and a blockade on its telecommunications technology used in 5G networks worldwide. You'd think he would be eager to catch a break that harms one of his competitors.

Instead, his response was exactly the right way to respond. Here's why.

Why Ren's Opinion on Competition Is Right

In the interview, Ren referred to Apple as "the world's leading company" and his "teacher." He specifically stated: "If there was no Apple, there would be no mobile internet."

In other words, Ren makes it clear that he sees Apple as both a competitor and an essential contributor to the overall tech industry--an innovator that helped paved the way for companies like Huawei.

He also clearly doesn't want to see further government action that restricts Huawei's ability to sell in important markets like the U.S. and its allies. I'm not an expert on international economic issues, but it doesn't take a Ph.D. to see that trade wars aren't particularly helpful to businesses that get caught in the crossfire.

Maybe you have one of those businesses. Maybe you don't. Either way, you're still faced with challenges every day. They may not be as big as Huawei's--and yet its CEO's response is a great lesson.

It's tempting to wish that something will come along to damage your biggest competitor. Instead, remember that competition is healthy. If the success of your business is dependent on an outside force impairing a competitor, you probably have bigger problems.

After all, competition drives the innovation that grows industries. Instead of letting a crisis consume you, let it motivate you to keep doing your thing--only better.

Published on: May 28, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.