Huawei and ZTE are not just strong at home; both firms also ventured abroad in the 1990s, selling fixed-line equipment in Asia and Africa. Western vendors’ interest in those regions was limited and their prices were too high, says Zhu Xiaodong, ZTE’s technology chief in Europe. Next, the Chinese firms began selling wireless equipment in the Middle East, South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America. Mr Zhu, who led the team that designed ZTE’s first mobile base-station based on the GSM standard, says Chinese companies had two advantages in the wireless-equipment market: much cheaper labour and, by that time, settled standards. Nokia and Ericsson, the pioneers of the GSM standard, took years to develop the technology; ZTE built its first base-station in six months.