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Huawei UK Director Lord Browne's Speech at the Summer Reception

2019.06.27

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening. As Huawei’s UK Chairman, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to our Summer Reception.

I am old enough to remember the infamous words of Francis Fukuyama, who talked about the “end of history”. Around the same time as Fukuyama, the President of the European Commission Jacques Delors talked about the acceleration of history. In the end, history neither accelerated nor stopped. But it certainly changed.

Take inequality as an example. Over the past 40 years, in many of the world’s richest economies, workers have become relatively poorer, while owners of capital have become relatively richer. As economies grow, most people have good reason to believe that they are no longer receiving their fair share.

In politics, the traditional classification of voters into left and right is less and less relevant. Citizens are now dividing along different lines: nationalist and globalist; free trade and protectionist; citizens of somewhere and citizens of nowhere. The kaleidoscope is in flux, and the share of the vote going to populist parties has more than tripled since the turn of the millennium.

And in technology, we are living through the dawn of a new Industrial Revolution, one which might finally bring the efficiency gains and productivity improvements that were always promised by the age of computing. But people are understandably worried about what this might mean for their jobs, their privacy, and even their security. 

So almost 30 years after Fukuyama, it is not yet clear whether we are witnessing the making of a new world order. But we are certainly living through the death of the old one.

Huawei sits at the intersection of this great change. Through an annual R&D budget of around 15 billion dollars, the company provides the technologies which are shaping the future. I expect that R&D budget to grow, and I expect more and more of it to be spent in the UK, where Huawei already has six research sites and annual R&D investment of more than one hundred million pounds.

But of course, Huawei has also become a lightning rod for the technological and political upheaval which is taking place around the world. The company’s reputation, has in my view, perhaps somewhat unfairly suffered.

There is much to do, and at moments like these it is important that we pause, reflect, and find time to thank our partners, customers and staff. Huawei’s ambition is to build a better connected world. We could not do that without your commitment, your business and your friendship.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us this evening.