In the face of opposition to its involvement in mobile tech roll-outs around the world, the Chinese telecoms behemoth has unleashed a devastating global weapon: the simile.
In a series of ads for print, digital and billboards across New Zealand this month, the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei pushed back at the government’s rejection of a bid to use its gear in the roll-out of a new mobile network. After thinking carefully about what matters to hardworking ordinary New Zealanders, they went with the slogan, “5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand”.
The company’s deep understanding of New Zealand’s national sport was revealed in the depiction of a quintessential rugby field moment, in which a fullback is jumping in a lineout.
As ever in analysis of Sino-NZ relations, however, the important thing to keep in mind is that we are not that special. And the Huawei campaign offers a very salutary reminder of this. Because it turns out that the Huawei Analogy Workshop has settled on a formula for its message. Which is, more or less: 5G roll-out-in Country-X minus Huawei equals Popular Sport in Country-X minus Popular Country-X team.
An early prototype was aired at the start of 2018. In a new-year letter to staff around the world, company chairman Guo Ping wrote, “For 5G markets that choose to not work with Huawei – they will be like an NBA game without star players … The game will go on, but with less deftness, flair and expertise.”
After a bit of workshopping, the soft power of simile was deployed again in the battle against America’s efforts to dissuade its allies from putting using Chinese kit.
As Thomas Coughlan noted this morning, the head of Huawei’s carrier business group, Ryan Ding, was on-message this week in a chat with reporters about Britain’s 5G roll-out.
“I believe that a 5G market without Huawei is just like the English Premier League without Manchester United,” he said.
And you won’t believe what Huawei India CEO, Jay Chen, told media about growing speculation that they could be blocked from involvement in 5G in India. Or you might. This week he said, “5G without Huawei could be what India would be without cricket”.
No sign of them yet, but surely only a matter of time until we learn that Canadian 5G without Huawei is like the NHL without the Maple Leafs, and Australian 5G without Huawei is like cricket without Dave Warner.