Technology companies will continue to invest in the China market like it was the dotcom boom days again despite a lack of short-term profitability, according to an industry leader. Unisys chief executive Larry Weinbach, speaking at a conference in France entitled 'China: Opportunity or Threat?', said China would continue to offer opportunities to technology firms. Mr Weinbach, who is on the advisory council to the Mayor of Shanghai, said: 'China is a player. It is a magnet for global investment. The country has received US$40 billion to $50 billion in investment every year for seven years. It is almost a dotcom boom.' However, Mr Weinbach said there were many obstacles that foreign firms had to overcome when investing in the mainland. 'We are never really sure what the numbers are [in the mainland], but they are getting more accurate. It is not a transparent economy but if you wait for 100 per cent of the figures, you will wait too long and someone else will grab the business,' he said. Many people were calling for more openness in the Chinese economy and government, but it was not something that would happen overnight, he said. The United States was having problems in this area and it was one of the most open societies in the world. 'Of course, transparency is needed in China. We in the US are going through all sorts of problems right now and we thought we had transparency,' he said. How much more difficult must it be for those in China to press for the same thing? However, China was trying to improve its transparency, he said, adding that the country's ability to learn from the mistakes of others was one reason it was doing so well. 'There is an issue with the use of intellectual property, but we believe this is improving. It is not worth it for them to recreate our airport systems,' he said. Unisys is one of the world's major players in the building of airport IT systems. Mr Weinbach made a point of emphasising he did not expect immediate results and that he was wary of partnerships. 'I went to my board in 2000 and told them we would not make money for five years. We would invest in China and the dollar amount would be substantial. We continued to invest in China even throughout the three worst years for technology. How long do you have to be in China to make a profit? Everybody says they are making money but they are not,' he said. Mr Weinbach said partnerships were not high on his list of things to do in China. 'Most partnerships are a marriage waiting for divorce. They do not take the time to get to know each other. Joint ventures only work if your partner has similar goals. Getting your objectives together can be difficult,' he said. This did not mean Unisys would not work with others. Mr Weinbach preferred to create an alliance, rather than a partnership. 'I certainly prefer alliances over partnerships. I have gone in with a partner and then had to overpay him to get out,' he said. Also, it could be difficult to retain good staff. 'Once you train somebody in China, they become a hot property. We train our own employees and then try to create an environment they do not want to leave. 'I'm a believer in the marketplace. With 1.3 billion potential consumers, China is not a bad market.'