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The case for Huawei in US (2)

(China Daily)

16:00, October 12, 2012

After a difficult transition in the early 2000s, it leveraged its strategy in global markets - starting with developing regions - with the support of US consulting giants, such as IBM. But in the West, almost every story about Huawei begins or ends with speculation on its corporate governance and its founder Ren Zhengfei, who served in the military for five years about three decades ago. The argument is that since Huawei is not public, it must be suspicious.

Yet many winning US companies remain private, like Huawei, to retain their flexibility in the marketplace. Besides, from the Chinese perspective, Huawei's corporate governance has served a function: to retain human capital.

Since 1990, Huawei has rewarded some 65,000 employees with the right to buy Huawei stocks. The stock ownership plan has allowed it to attract and retain talent. Employees hold some 98.6 percent of Huawei's shares. And China's law prevents companies with large employee ownership from going public.

As Huawei continues to globalize, it will seek to reconcile Chinese and global corporate norms. True, the influence of private entrepreneurs in China has increased after 2002. However, Huawei's global success can be attributed to its origins in market-driven Shenzhen, smart strategic moves, and success in the global market.

Overall, the expansion of Chinese companies has led to significant economic contributions in foreign markets in which they operate, through job creation, contributions to GDP and local taxes, says the prestigious World Economic Forum, which considers Huawei an exemplary case.

As long as barriers continue to deter Chinese foreign direct investment in the US, America's trade and investment policy is at risk of being perceived unipolar. In the long run, such perceptions may return to haunt US corporations and their efforts to expand in foreign markets.

In the coming decades, the role of US corporations in the world economy will decrease in relative terms, while those of large emerging economies will gradually increase. Seeking unipolar sanctions in a multipolar world is a sure way of escalating trade and investment conflicts and potentially undermining the activities of American companies worldwide.

A successful outcome in the Huawei case could prove a game-changer by accelerating the flow of investment into the US at a time when inward investment is needed the most. An unsuccessful outcome would have repercussions on US-Chinese relations, far beyond Huawei.

So if there is a security case to be made against Huawei, it should be made publicly and in a specific manner. Serious allegations require serious evidence. And if that security case against Huawei does not exist or if it cannot be made, there is a win-win case for Huawei in the US.

The author is research director of international business at US-based India, China and America Institute, an independent think tank, and a visiting fellow at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies and Singapore EU Center.

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