Huawei's new R&D hub adopts a European flair

Huawei's headquarters for research and development in Dongguan, China, has all the trappings of a European town – plaster statues, wide piazzas, cobblestone lanes and even a tram that runs around the sprawling campus.
A conductor waits as a train pulls into Huawei's campus at Songshan Lake in Dongguan. Above: Members of the media on Huawei's new R&D campus in Dongguan, which borrows heavily from Europe. It is divided into 12 districts named after European cities,
A conductor waits as a train pulls into Huawei's campus at Songshan Lake in Dongguan.PHOTO: REUTERS, DANSON CHEONG
A conductor waits as a train pulls into Huawei's campus at Songshan Lake in Dongguan. Above: Members of the media on Huawei's new R&D campus in Dongguan, which borrows heavily from Europe. It is divided into 12 districts named after European cities,
A conductor waits as a train pulls into Huawei’s campus at Songshan Lake in Dongguan. PHOTO: REUTERS, DANSON CHEONG

ST finds croissants and cobblestone lanes aplenty as it tours Chinese tech giant's campus in Guangdong

Driving up to the research and development base of Chinese tech giant Huawei is a surreal experience.

The roads of Dongguan - the city in Guangdong province where the 140ha-campus is located - are peppered with signs in Chinese. But rising in the distance is the imposing spire of a European castle.

Transplanted in the middle of southern China are all the trappings of a European town - plaster statues, wide piazzas and cobblestone lanes. There is even a tram that trundles around the sprawling campus beside Songshan Lake, an hour's drive north of the Chinese tech capital Shenzhen.

The Straits Times was among the various international media outlets given a tour of some of Huawei's facilities in Shenzhen and Dongguan as the technology company, facing intense global pressure, embarks on a massive public relations drive.

The goal, say Huawei employees, is to show that the company is both transparent and open.

During the visit on Thursday, this media group got a rare look under the hood of the world's largest telecoms equipment manufacturer.

The Songshan campus, which is called Xiliubeipo Village in Chinese, is the nexus of the tech giant's research and development (R&D) efforts. Huawei began moving its R&D staff from Shenzhen to the campus last year. When completed, it is expected to house about 25,000 employees.


Huawei's new R&D campus in Dongguan is divided into 12 districts named after European cities, and features re-creations of European landmarks, such as the Heidelberg Castle in Germany (pictured). ST PHOTO: DANSON CHEONG

Eight of its 12 districts have been built so far, all of them named after European cities, such as Paris, Burgundy, Verona and Freiburg.

  • HUAWEI CAMPUS

  • 140 ha

    Size of the campus.

    25,000

    Number of employees expected to be housed there when it is completed.

In "Paris", there are cafes selling croissants. There is also a replica of the Neptune Fountain from the Palace of Versailles.

 
 
 

In "Heidelberg", there is a building inspired by a castle of the same name in Germany.

And like its namesake in northern Italy, "Verona" has a lazy river snaking through it.

Takeaway coffee is served in paper cups printed with the Chinese words "the lighthouse is waiting for the early return of the late ship". The term "late ship" is also the name of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is being held in Canada for allegedly breaching American sanctions on Iran.

While the faux European campus has drawn flak over its cultural counterfeiting, Huawei is quick to brush off the criticism.

A company representative says it shows Huawei's ambition to be an international company and that the campus would also allow employees to have an "international experience".


Coffee in Huawei's Shenzhen and Dongguan campus are served in paper cups printed with the words: "the lighthouse awaits the early return of the late ship". ST PHOTO: DANSON CHEONG

Visits to the campus, which is open only to employees, their families as well as clients, are rare. But since the beginning of this year, the tempo of visits has ratcheted up, say Huawei staff.

Other areas on the campus that were once closed to the media - including the company's independent cyber-security laboratory (CSL) and factory floor - were also opened up for visits during the publicity blitz.

At the CSL, company representatives took pains to stress that Huawei's products were secure, rebutting accusations that there were backdoors that the Beijing government could use for espionage.

"If there is any accusation, I think these people are just spilling dirty water… We can say that we have no backdoors and we have never seen such issues," said Mr Wang Jin, director of the CSL.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'Huawei's new R&D hub adopts a European flair'. Print Edition | Subscribe