LONDON – Some authorities around the world are suspicious of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, distrusting its connections to the Chinese government, and expressing concern that its telecoms equipment could represent a security risk. But here in U.K. we are so mired in economic stagnation that we rolled out Prime Minister David Cameron to greet Huawei CEO and founder, Ren Zhengfei, and welcome news of a $2 billion investment plan for the country.
Ren said Huawei would invest $1 billion over the next five years creating 700 jobs in the U.K. and taking local employment up to 1,500 people by 2017. At the same time the company would spend $1 billion on procurement in the U.K., he said.
Huawei is set to create a number of technical and financial centers to help it work with mobile operators, such as Vodafone plc, but is also planning investment in research and development in the U.K. and said it wants to contribute to the U.K.'s national broadband strategy.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The investment announced by Huawei today demonstrates once again that the U.K. is open for business. I welcome this and I want to see more companies invest in the U.K. as we work to achieve sustainable and balanced growth within our economy."
Ren replied: "The U.K. is one of the most important European markets in which Huawei has invested. Over the past eleven years we have found its government to be transparent, efficient and practical."
Ren also said some other nice things about the U.K. legal and educational systems and that this was the reason Huawei has chosen to come here to create a number of centers of excellence.
Meanwhile the word on the street is that Nokia Siemens Networks, one of Europe's indigenous data networking and telecommunications equipment companies, is preparing lay off 400 people in Finland.
The company is a joint venture between Finland's Nokia and Germany's Siemens and was formed in 2007 to try and achieve economies of scale to help it compete with such companies as Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei. However, NSN announced an intention to cut nearly 25 percent of its staff in November 2011 and is reported to be trying to negotiate the sale of a number of business units it now classes as non-core.
I have been and I am still very critical of the British Government's lack of industrial strategy. That said, I have to recognise that the British Establishment is a master at survival. Principles do not come into it I am afraid, it's all about the ability to make dispassionate decisions at the right time in history. Whether we like it or not, China is the superpower of the near future, and we have to strive to have very good relations with them. Opening the UK market to Chinese investment like this serves this purpose and helps the UK economy as well.
Such decision is of course not mutually exclusive with having an industrial strategy to help indigenous British firms. That, of course, we keep on dreaming of...
You are saying we did something right way back when!
But the term "practical" is close to "pragmatic" which is not too-far from "unprincipled"
When one's government is praised for being "practical" it makes one pause for thought.
I do not think it's just about the current economic crisis, Peter. The UK has made a calculated long term decision to welcome Chinese, Indian and other emerging economies' investments over a decade ago, knowing that the balance of wealth is shifting eastwards. Other countries will come to the same conclusion...eventually.