|Silicon Dragon hops on Huawei's train to innovation|
The trend of ‘made in China’ to ‘invented in China’ has been seen most clearly among the Chinese tech startups that scaled over the past decade and continue to micro-innovate, acquire and expand. Now this thread is more prominent among China’s largest multinationals, and some that have not always enjoyed the finest reputation for originality or image.
It’s ironic that this southern Chinese manufacturing city Shenzhen, the first to open up under China’s economic reforms in 1978 and a known as a hub of low-cost knock-offs, has become a center of this new-found corporate innovative energy. The city is home to the telecom-plus companies Huawei and ZTE, social messaging player Tencent, supply chain manager PCH International, electronics maker Foxconn, and Warren Buffet-invested electric car maker BYD.
This Pearl River Delta city still has a brusque style and rough feel, and with its hot and humid climate, could never compare to the lifestyle and creative energy of Silicon Valley despite the mammoth golf course Mission Hills, five-star business hotels Shenzhen Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, upscale shopping malls, movie theatres, and fine Mediterranean cuisine dining.
That innate Chinese knack for inventiveness evident among Shenzhen’s large conglomerates exemplifies China’s ascendancy in the corporate value chain from a production-only base to increasingly, science and technology as a foundation.
Huawei is on the cutting edge by reaching out to showcase it’s hardly an imitator but a creator of original products. The campaign is part of a well-crafted course to project an open and innovative culture and shake off its image as a cyber-security threat in the U.S. and the residue of protracted legal cases with rival Cisco over intellectual property.
I spent a day at the leafy, college campus-like headquarters of Huawei, founded in 1988 by engineer Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer with the People’s Liberation Army. English-speaking guides took me around several sleek showrooms that exhibit a vast array of Huawei technical breakthroughs. Visitors can pose for souvenir photos and dine in an historic train on a short rail track on the lawn outside a company cafeteria. Keep reading my Silicon Dragon post at Forbes.