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Australia-China IT investment can't be a one way street: Huawei

Chinese telecommunications company Huawei's Australian chairman John Lord has urged Australia to think of China as an investment partner for IT.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

Just two weeks after Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with Huawei global chairwoman Sun Yafang in China, the company's Australian chairman John Lord has urged Australia to stop thinking of China as just a hub for producing IT equipment.

Huawei's name has gained prominence over the last few years, not only as the telecommunications giant expands across the globe, but also as several western governments, including the United States and Australia, have shown a hesitance in using the company's equipment in national infrastructure, citing concerns over links to the Chinese government.

Lord told the ADC Future Summit in Melbourne on Tuesday that for a private company from China that is now global, Huawei sees one of its major challenges in becoming a trusted and respected multinational company that can get involved in Australia.

"My fellow directors and I are quite active in talking to different groups about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and correcting the many false allegations against the company and its people," he said.

To achieve this, he said Huawei was looking to create an "ecosystem of investment" between Australia and China, partnering with not only telecommunications companies, but the finance sector and the education sector.

He said that Huawei didn't want to just have a sales office in Australia, and Australia should not consider China as just a place to import technology from.

"Australia cannot be a one-way street in terms of ICT industry trade with China. We cannot be taken by the mindset that we export iron ore to China and import hi-tech from China — Australia must benefit from China's innovation boom," he said.

"Many Australians still hold onto old ideas about China, that it is simply a manufacturing hub with thousands of workers piecing together millions of mobile phones. For Huawei, that is a vision of China's past, not its future."

He said that Huawei puts 10 percent of its annual revenue towards research and development. A total of 45 percent of Huawei's 140,000 employees were involved in R&D, too, he said. Lord said that he believed Australia could work with Huawei to do more R&D locally.

"As Huawei, we want to encourage Australian companies to become a part of our global supply chain, we want local R&D capabilities to piggyback on the success of Huawei's global R&D efforts," he said. "Huawei has set up 16 R&D centres worldwide, and it is the view of the local board of directors that number 17 should be right here in Australia."

He said that the situation would be win-win for both Australia and China, with Chinese companies able to grow in Australia, and Australia would be able to collect the revenues being part of a global supply chain.

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