A sketch on the back of a napkin captured the moment when the global telecoms market opened up to Huawei. Ben Verwaayen, the former chief executive of BT, drew the sketch to illustrate how he wanted to transform the UK’s telecoms network, changing it from an antiquated analogue system to a digital one capable of routing data at speed, one that could even carry television signals. But when he started contacting BT’s traditional suppliers, such as the British equipment maker Marconi, the former telecoms arm of GEC, they were inflexible. By contrast Huawei, an unproven Chinese firm, was willing to work with BT on the £10bn project. In April 2005, Huawei won a contract to provide devices that aggregate customer lines and connect them to the main part of the network. “It was the creation of an exit out of China,” said Mr Verwaayen. “They got a foothold, the rest is history.” Britain was the springboard Indeed, while Britain has become one of the most vocal critics of Huawei’s penetration...

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