China's telecommunications equipment makers are aggressively competing for a bigger slice of the international market at the same time as their global rivals are hungrily eyeing the mainland. Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) chief operating officer Lim Toon recalled China's Huawei Technologies management's words in a sales pitch: 'Whatever [products] Cisco Systems have, we have the same, and we have them cheaper.' Cisco is one of the many big global players that Huawei has in its sights. Formed in 1988, Huawei is a privately owned company specialising in providing telecoms equipment and solutions. Huawei vice-president Fei Min said: 'All the world's leading equipment suppliers are our learning models.' Huawei's aggressive marketing is paying off, with SingTel and its Australian subsidiary Optus, as well as associates such as Thailand's AIS, all becoming clients for its intelligent network products. Huawei is one of many mainland equipment vendors eyeing international markets as a driver for their earnings growth. Domestic rivals such as China Putian, ZTE and Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group are accelerating efforts to compete overseas, aiming to more than double their revenue from foreign markets each year. Having seen a slowing down in their domestic market, it was a natural step for them to seek opportunities elsewhere. China's telecom carriers are become increasingly cautious about their spending amid fierce competition. Slower subscriber and revenue growth has seen them making aggressive cuts to capital expenditure. Infrastructure investment by Chinese telecom operators plunged 32.7 per cent year on year to 118.14 billion yuan (about HK$110.69 billion) in the first 10 months of the year, according to latest Ministry of Information Industry (MII) statistics. The reduced spending had a great impact on telecom equipment makers, with many seeing big falls in both sales and profits. Huawei and ZTE - China's two largest equipment manufacturers - both failed to meet annual sales targets. They are hoping fast growth among global operators will help offset slowing domestic sales. 'Our activities in China builds our competitiveness in international markets. That's why we can compete in the global arena. The problem is, we haven't done much to promote ourselves to international markets,' said Huawei's Mr Fei. To remedy this, Huawei planned to increase its international sales and marketing teams. It already has 32 branch offices outside China and sells to more than 40 countries. Executive vice-president William Xu Wenwei said for the past five years the company had engaged consultancy firms to improve its internal management, financial control, product development and quality control. However, the highly competitive nature of the domestic market over the past decade had been the key to mainland companies being able to compete overseas, as they were forced to improve the quality of their services and products. 'Over the past 10 years, China has became the world's biggest and most competitive market. There is not protectionism in this market,' Mr Fei said. 'Equipment vendors from all over the world have brought the most advanced technology, their best products and services to China.' Many of China's information technology companies such as Huawei and personal computer maker Legend Group have learnt valuable lessons through partnerships with foreign players. As a result, their international reputations have improved. The MII's outgoing head, Wu Jichuan, said recently that the value of IT products manufactured in China amounted to 1.3 trillion yuan last year, 14.4 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. James Wang Jian, executive deputy general manager of China Putian's international trade division, said: 'The crux of the World Trade Organisation is fair trade. After China's entry to the WTO, when foreign [companies] are coming into the China market, we also need to go aboard as well.'