Chinese telco Huawei has come under intense pressure in recent months from the US and some of its allies over concerns that the company presents a security risk, yet it appears Chinese consumers have responded by rallying to Huawei’s defence.

Sales of its smartphones have soared in China since the end of last year, while 40% of Chinese consumers now say their next choice of smartphone will be a Huawei brand, up from 30% both in November 2018 and the same period a year ago.

That is according to a late January survey carried out by FT Confidential Research, the independent research service of the Financial Times, which also found that Huawei’s lead over Apple has widened since its survey in November.

FT Confidential Research said this development suggested that Apple’s “iPhone sales may have become an indirect victim of Chinese nationalism” and that, more generally, “the growing backlash against Huawei among western governments has touched a patriotic nerve at home.”

The rush of support for Huawei in its home market has also hit other Chinese brands and the FT researchers noted that the popularity of both Oppo and Vivo-branded smartphones saw “notable falls” in survey results since last November.

It seems the trend was triggered following the widely publicised arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder, which was condemned by the Chinese government and stirred anger on social media.

According to sales agents at smartphone outlets in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities, sales of Huawei smartphones have increased by an estimated 20% since her arrest on 5th December.

“The arrest of Meng Wanzhou has made Huawei a patriotic icon. Customers say they are buying Huawei phones to show their love for the country – some openly criticise iPhone buyers for not being patriotic,” said Zhao Lixia, a sales agent at a smartphone store in Wuhan.

Meanwhile, the pressure on Huawei shows little sign of abating and only last week the US envoy to the European Union, Ambassador Gordon Snodland, warned of US countermeasures if any Western country allowed Huawei or other Chinese technology to be used in critical infrastructure projects.

Sourced from FT Confidential Research, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg; additional content by WARC staff