On April 25, 2015, a devastating magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Nepal, leaving 9,000 dead and thousands injured. The international community rallied to help. The world’s largest telecom equipment maker was one of them. Twenty minutes after the earthquake, Huawei’s local engineering team ran to its local customer carrier to work out an emergency response plan, which would eventually cut the number of non-functional base stations from 30% to below 6% in the next few days.

“Ensuring network stability is the biggest social responsibility for Huawei,” states Ren Zhengfei, the PLA veteran and engineer who founded the company. Now one of the world’s largest smartphone and telecom equipment makers, Huawei Technologies is an employee-owned company with approximately 85,000 working shareholders. The founder Ren holds less than 2% of shares.

This is a telling episode in Chinese companies’ “go global” process as their overseas activities extend beyond profit seeking. In the past decade or so Chinese companies are increasingly expanding their presence abroad, growing sales and financial assets. Data published by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2016 shows that China is the third largest foreign investor in the world after U.S. and Japan, committing $128 billion worldwide, up from $123 billion in 2015.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.