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Tim Watkins The Guardian, Friday 27 May 2011|
Isabel Hilton urges British businesses to be more cautious in their dealings with Chinese corporations (Chinese shadows, 22 May). She correctly states that Britain has "one of the world's most open economies" – a key reason for its success in attracting foreign direct investment, and the jobs and tax dollars that go with it. This was certainly a key attraction for our company and we are proud of the contribution we are making as part of our long-term investment in the UK.
However, in an effort to assign a political or strategic dimension to investments from private companies in China, Hilton fails to understand Chinese companies in general and Huawei in particular. She suggests "Huawei exemplifies the suspicion that dogs China's industrial and commercial giants around the world" because of the oft-repeated misunderstanding about Huawei's founder and chief executive, Ren Zhengfei. Yes, he was in the military early in his career, just like many other corporate leaders in the US, UK and across the globe. But his service ended nearly three decades ago and he has no ties to the military.
Hilton notes that "as a key operator in Chinese telecoms, [Huawei] has a close relationship with the government". Our relationship with the Chinese state is no different to what any major company has with the government in its headquarters country. Her statement about that relationship, in the context of her article – which mentions that "every significant Chinese company has a shadow party structure inside it" – makes a commonly held practice in most countries come across as unseemly, which it isn't.
Let's be clear, the Chinese government has no ownership stake whatsoever in our company. Huawei is entirely profit-, not politically, motivated. And, if we had a "shadow party structure" guiding our company, it is highly unlikely that we would be partners with 45 of the world's top 50 telecom operators who clearly have no questions about the quality of our technology and our commitment to the highest standards of business practices.
Hilton also incorrectly states that "Huawei's corporate structure is opaque". All you have to do is look at our 2010 annual report for a very clear overview of that structure, including the company's organisational structure, biographies and photos of the board of directors, and a description of our shareholding scheme – to name a few examples. Opaque we are certainly not.
If anything is opaque, it is the lens that some commentators use to measure companies like ours who have no motive other than continuing to bring our industry-leading communications technology to the United Kingdom, while also succeeding on a level playing field in a very competitive global business environment.
Those commentators have not produced one shred of evidence to support their insinuations, and I can assure you, in the case of Huawei, they never will.