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Crayfish.io founder Ting Zhang urges UK not to burn bridges with China over Huawei 5G decision

The founder of Crayfish.io has urged political leaders not to “burn bridges” with China following the UK’s decision to ban Huawei from future involvement in the country’s 5G network.

The decision last Tuesday followed a security review from the National Cyber Security Centre and pressure from US president Donald Trump, who considers the company to be too close to the Chinese government, an accusation that Huawei denies.

Ting Zhang at Crayfish.io, St John’s Innovation Centre. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ting Zhang at Crayfish.io, St John’s Innovation Centre. Picture: Keith Heppell

The company recently won planning permission for a $1billion R&D and manufacturing centre at Sawston, but this is unrelated to its 5G work. Instead, it will focus on optoelectronics used in high-speed broadband networks.

Tiny Zhang, founder and CEO of Cambridge-based Crayfish.io, the full-service provider that offers better engagement with Chinese businesses through online platform technology, is concerned about the fall-out of the 5G decision on trade relations.

“As someone who has worked passionately at the forefront of UK-China international business, trade and investment for the last 25-plus years, I have been deeply upset by the seemingly overnight deterioration in UK-China relations following the UK’s decision to ban Huawei’s 5G equipment,” she said.

“Five years ago, we were all talking excitedly about ‘a new golden era of UK-China relations’. In 2015, the UK became the first Western country to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and President Xi Jinping had enjoyed a memorable state visit to the UK, paving the way for UK-China relations to flourish.

“He talked about a ‘bilateral relationship’ with a ‘community of shared interests’ which would be lifted to a ‘new height’. And indeed, it did, with the UK becoming one of China’s largest trade partners in 2019.

“Post-Brexit, there would be inevitable tensions around the UK’s trading relationship with Europe. Now the UK seems to be heading for additional tensions with a second major trading arm, China. But I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to burn bridges. And it really would be a terrible shame if both countries let political differences and challenges interfere with our otherwise growing friendship and trade interests.”

Ting pointed out that China is now the third largest importer of UK goods - business worth $30billion - and the UK is the second largest recipient of Chinese FDI in Europe.

An artist's impression of the planned new Huawei building in Sawston. Picture: Huawei
An artist's impression of the planned new Huawei building in Sawston. Picture: Huawei

“Whilst the Huawei ban has clearly been a difficult decision, it does reiterate one thing that we, at Crayfish.io, have always known as it forms the very backbone of our business - and it’s this: Doing business with China can be challenging and unsuccessful if you do not properly understand the complexities, legalities and, most importantly, the unique culture of doing business with China. I know this because this is one of the most important aspects that we help UK businesses with to scale up and become successful operations in China.

“The fundamentals of the UK-China relationship are still sound, in trade, investment, education, and cultural links – and so there is no reason why any of these dynamics should change.

“Maintaining a long-term relationship - whether it’s between countries, governments, organisations or individuals – must always be based on trust requiring both parties to work at it and together, overcoming differences, and looking out for common ground and similarities, and sharing experiences.

“This is why Crayfish.io exists – our online platform serves as a digital bridge to fill the gaps of knowledge by providing multilingual and multi-cultural expertise to facilitate genuinely mutual, win-win collaborations and partnership between the Western world and China.”

She added: “This is a time for solidarity and collaboration – not burning bridges.”

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