Chinese technology giant Huawei has grown to become one the world’s most prominent forces in the tech industry, and close to its company headquarters building work is taking place that reflects that change in stature.
In Dongguan, close to the city of Shenzhen in southern China, the company has built a new campus — one designed to be almost solely for the firm’s research and development efforts.
This campus stands out because it is modelled on a number of European cities, taking architectural inspiration from cities and regions such as Grenada in Spain, Paris, Burgundy, Verona, and Bologna.
A sign perhaps of Huawei’s intent to be seen as a global company rather than just a Chinese one, the designs on show are taken from some of founder Ren Zhengfei’s favourite locations.
Such is the size of the campus that a miniature metro system is used by employees to move between the different buildings and “towns”.
Of 12 planned areas, eight are already open, with a space inspired by London also part of future plans.
The site currently holds around 20 000 people, but will eventually house 25 000 staff who are part of a research and development workforce that totals around 80 000.
It is an area of the company in which Huawei invests vast amounts of money — up to 15% of annual revenue goes into research and development — as it looks to unlock the next game-changing technology that could help it lead the industry.
The Dongguan campus is a manifestation of that, but its European setting inside China is also a reminder that the company continues to face questions from parts of the Western world over its security and trustworthiness.
The company itself has argued that US hostilities towards Huawei are down to a mixture of geopolitical games to try and secure a better trade deal for the US in negotiations with China, and to try and slow Huawei’s rise as a tech giant, most notably in the area of 5G — a space US companies are not currently leading.
Bridges — and not just ones based on those from European cities — still need to be built.