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Huawei’s logo seen outside its main UK office in Reading, west of London, on January 28, 2020. Former head of BBC news programmes Gavin Allen became the latest high-profile overseas hire for the Chinese tech giant as it looks for new business opportunities that are not hindered by US sanctions. Photo: AFP

Huawei hires former BBC executive as editor in chief in push to hire more foreign talent amid tensions with UK

  • Former head of BBC news programmes Gavin Allen updated his LinkedIn on Tuesday to announce the new post at the Chinese telecoms equipment maker
  • Gavin and French mathematician Laurent Lafforgue are two of the latest high-profile hires from Huawei as it looks for new business opportunities overseas
Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co has appointed former head of BBC news programmes Gavin Allen as its “executive editor in chief”, marking the telecoms equipment maker’s latest high-profile international hire.

Allen, who helmed BBC news output for seven years, announced his new position by updating his LinkedIn profile on Tuesday, changing the banner image to one of the Huawei logo and his title to “Executive Editor in Chief, Huawei Technologies”.

“I’m delighted to be joining the global tech company today as their Executive Editor in Chief,” Allen wrote in a short post about the change. “It feels meant-to-be after a two decades long China journey. I’ve studied Chinese history, am – falteringly – learning Mandarin and my wonderful eldest daughter was born in Guangxi.”

Struggling to sell smartphones, Huawei bets its future on 5G hospitals

“Now hugely proud to be part of a world class ICT organisation which truly values collaboration and innovation: a creative force for good,” he added.

He did not change his location, however, which is still listed as London.

Huawei confirmed Allen’s appointment but declined to comment further.

The move comes after company founder Ren Zhengfei recently said that Huawei would boost efforts to hire foreign talent, especially in the United States, as it moves to vitalise its overseas research and development programmes, according to a speech published on Wednesday.

Ren gave no indication of what the company is willing to spend on such recruits. But Allen received between £185,000 and £189,999 (US$249,400 to US$256,250) for the 2020/21 financial year from the public British Broadcasting Corporation, according to his page on the company’s website.

Allen’s appointment comes amid a strained relationship between China and the BBC. BBC World News was taken off the air in China after the UK revoked the broadcasting license for Chinese state-backed network CGTN in February.

Before removing the BBC, China’s foreign ministry issued a statement accusing the network of pushing “fake news” in its Covid-19 reporting. Beijing then demanded an apology and said that the broadcaster had politicised the pandemic and “rehashed theories about covering up by China”.

Huawei has also been battling its deteriorating reputation in the UK.

The British government ruled out allowing Huawei to help build its 5G network last year before pledging to spend £250 million to diversify the sources of its 5G wireless equipment. Huawei equipment is set to be completely excluded from 5G networks in the country by 2027, a decision based on security concerns also raised by the US and other countries.

Huawei founder seeks foreign recruits to bolster firm’s R&D efforts

Under pressure from US sanctions, which have all but killed the company’s smartphone business, Huawei has been seeking more foreign talent to meet new business needs. Another recent hire that made international headlines was that of renowned French mathematician Laurent Lafforgue.

Lafforgue is a winner of the 2002 Fields Medal, known as the Nobel Prize of mathematics, which was presented by then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin at the 24th International Congress of Mathematicians held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The academic, known for his work in number theory, is expected to work at Huawei’s research centre in Paris.

Shenzhen-based Huawei had 197,000 employees worldwide last year, covering 162 different countries and regions, according to the company’s annual report.