Huawei courts Thailand, Indonesia with supply chain support

Huawei Technologies has brought its annual technology showcase to Southeast Asia to step up its efforts to grow in countries where it can avoid a Western crackdown.

Digital and business ministers from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Bangladesh were in Bangkok as the embattled Chinese company hosted its Huawei Connect event overseas for the first time. All four countries have allowed mobile network operators to source Huawei’s 5th generation telecom equipment, despite security warnings and bans from the US and European governments.

“Huawei aims to become a major contributor to the digital economy in Asia-Pacific [region]said Simon Lin, President of Huawei Asia Pacific.

Executives praised the company’s digital products and services for industrial applications that will be critical for Southeast Asian economies looking to shift to high-value manufacturing. Vietnam has become an alternative destination for electronics manufacturers leaving China, while Indonesia and Thailand compete to be the center of a regional electric vehicle supply chain.

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“Introducing new technologies into industrial scenarios is not easy. There aren’t enough ready-made solutions, and all industries are really lacking in experience and digital power,” said Huawei rotating chairman Ken Hu, speaking via video link. “Time and cost are major barriers for most businesses.”

The Huawei Connect event was one of the first at Bangkok’s newly opened Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, which was renovated ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in November.

The embrace of Huawei and other Chinese tech champions in the region is at odds with Western countries, which have blacklisted Huawei on national security grounds.

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Deepening its presence in markets where it’s still welcome will be key for Huawei as it faces a “challenging year” for its smartphone and electronics businesses. Cut off from chip supplies and Western markets, the company focuses on 5G infrastructure, cloud and digital solutions.

After Thailand, Huawei Connect will take place in Dubai and Paris. France has blocked telecom operators from using Huawei 5G equipment but has allowed Huawei to build a factory. Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates, continue to use Huawei on their networks despite US concerns.

Huawei has also expanded into automotive and artificial intelligence fields. On Monday, it unveiled Pangu, an AI-powered drug modeling technology that will accelerate antibacterial drug research and development and reduce costs by 70%.

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Huawei on Monday unveiled a framework for Asia-Pacific policymakers to guide their economies through digital transformation. The white paper categorized the region’s economies into four stages of digital development, identifying gaps and recommending actions for each stage.

Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines were ranked in the lowest “Adopter” tier, indicating the lack of nationwide connectivity. Thailand and Malaysia were accelerator countries, which will require increased investment and upskilling of the workforce. Huawei plans to invest US$100 million by 2024 to train 10,000 developers and support 1,000 startups in the region.

This article first appeared on Nikkei Asia. It was re-released here as part of 36Kr Partnership with Nikkei.

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