Budapest, Hungary – Sick of the “Made in China” label? Well, entire Chinese campuses are now being modeled on European cities.
Huawei, the Chinese telecoms and electronics giant, has designed its new mega campus in the city of Dongguan, southern China, based on a dozen different European cities, including Paris (France), Granada (Spain), Bruges (Belgium) and Verona (Italy). The new complex will be located just a few kilometers north of the current headquarters of Huawei in Schenzen, which hosts roughly 50.000 employees. The construction of the campus is said to cost around 10 billion yuan, or approximately 1.3 billion euros.
The campus, which is supposed to be able to house up to 25.000 employees of the Chinese conglomerate, is still under construction, but reporters from CNBC got an inside look at the eight “towns” that have already been set up so far.
Among the European cities cloned for its new campus, Huawei has decided to duplicate Budapest’s Freedom Bridge, one of the most well-known and iconic architectural landmarks of the Hungarian capital, and the Czech city of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the southern part of Bohemia.
The Chinese version of the Freedom Bridge will link the two parts of the gigantic so-called “OX Horn” complex over the Songshan lake that divides the whole campus. The dedicated tram-line of the campus, spanning over a total length of 8 kilometers and going through 12 stops, also runs through the bridge.
The Freedom Bridge of Budapest was built in the late 19th century, and the opening ceremony was presided by Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef. Today, it’s one of the most well-known sites of Budapest, including due to its emblematic criss-crossing metal formations. It was originally called the Franz Josef bridge, but was destroyed in 1945. The new name was given when the bridge was rebuilt in 1946.
Let’s not forget that there’s a background to the Hungarian-Chinese cooperation in the field of architecture and urbanism: Shanghai’s chief architect in the first half of the 20th century was Hungarian-Slovak architect Laszlo Hudec, which prompted Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, while on visit in China’s financial hub, to call Shanghai “the most Hungarian city in China”.
One of the new campus’ towns, ‘Cesky’, is also supposedly a replica of the Czech city of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World heritage site since 1992 and one of the most popular destinations for tourists visiting the Czech Republic. Many day trips, including for Chinese tourists, are organized directly from Prague on a daily basis. The numbers speak for themselves: a town of roughly 14.000 inhabitants attracts more than 1 million visitors a year – to address the phenomenon of “over-tourism”, a Czech conceptual artist even launched an experiment last year in Český Krumlov, offering a job and paid accommodation for people willing to “live a normal life” in the city center.
Interestingly enough, Huawei’s duplication of landmark Czech and Hungarian cities comes at a time when the Chinese company is going through troubled waters in Central Europe. The Czech cyber-security agency recently warned that Huawei could present a security threat, and advised against using their products as it may be used by the Chinese government to spy. This warning came only a few weeks after the Czech intelligence agency warned against a rise in Chinese espionage activities in the country.
Those allegations sparked a heated debate in the Czech Republic, including a clash between Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and the Chinese ambassador in Prague. Meanwhile, the notoriously pro-Chinese Czech President Milos Zeman discarded those accusations, warned of retaliations from Beijing and slammed this “campaign against the company Huawei”. Behind all this fuss, there are strong business ties at work, including that of billionaire and country’s richest man Petr Kellner’s attempt to build a warm relationship with China to push for further cooperation in the field of a 5G network.
The matter even spilled over Czech borders: a few weeks ago, in the latest sign of growing tensions between the Chinese telecoms company and European countries, a Huawei employee was arrested on spying charges in Poland, along with a Polish intelligence officer.