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MWC23. Samsung, Ericsson, Qualcomm, some other tech companies absent

Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest smartphone vendor, was conspicuously absent for unknown reasons at MWC Shanghai, the regional edition of the world’s biggest mobile communications industry trade show, in a break from the company’s annual participation.

The South Korean tech conglomerate’s absence at the three-day MWC Shanghai, which returned as an in-person event this year and concludes this Friday, marks the first time the company has not taken part in the annual trade show since at least 2017, according to public information on its website. Samsung even had a booth at MWC Shanghai during the event’s pandemic-marred 2021 edition.

By contrast, Seoul-based Samsung – which remained the top global smartphone vendor in the first quarter and the whole of 2022, according to research firm IDC – had eight stands at MWC Barcelona 2023, organiser GSM Association’s (GSMA) flagship annual mobile industry trade show, which was held from February 27 to March 2 in the capital of Spain’s autonomous community of Catalonia.

Samsung did not immediately respond to requests for comment since Wednesday. MWC Shanghai organiser GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, said it had no response to Samsung’s absence.

Still, there were other major industry stalwarts that did not exhibit at this year’s MWC Shanghai.

Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson and US-based Qualcomm – a developer of semiconductors, software and services related to mobile communications – also did not have booths at the Shanghai event this year, according to a representative from GSMA.

Ericsson planned to set up a booth at MWC Shanghai, but then “backed out” just before the event opened this week, according to the representative who declined to be named. Qualcomm was initially booked as an exhibitor, but later decided to cancel for reasons unknown to the trade show’s organiser.

But unlike Samsung, both Ericsson and Qualcomm were included among MWC Shanghai’s 15 major corporate sponsors. Senior executives from the two firms were also among the featured speakers at the event.

Samsung’s no-show at MWC Shanghai has come at a time of rising tensions between China and South Korea.

Relations between Seoul and Beijing have soured since the South Korean government denounced China for committing a “serious diplomatic discourtesy” after a Chinese official said recent comments by President Yoon Suk-yeol on Taiwan amounted to verbal meddling, according to Yonhap News.

Ties between the two countries have never fully recovered after China opposed the US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area anti-missile defence system about six years ago.

The once-formidable trade in semiconductors between China and South Korea also continued to decline in May, according to the latest data from Beijing and Seoul, amid geopolitical tensions that have changed the chip supply chain landscape in Asia.

The diminishing tech trade, particularly in semiconductors, between the two countries comes after China’s standing in the global chip supply chain was affected by Seoul’s decision to closely align its interests with Tokyo and Washington.

South Korea forms part of the US government-backed Chip 4 Alliance that includes Japan and Taiwan. Beijing has criticised this coalition as a plot by Washington to exclude China from semiconductor supply chains.

Chinese technology companies, meanwhile, seized the limelight at MWC Shanghai, making up for the absence of some major foreign companies.

Huawei Technologies Co, for example, was one of the largest exhibitors at the trade show and also an event sponsor. The Shenzhen-based company’s 1,500-square-metre booth attracted large crowds, as the firm exhibited its latest 5G products and intelligent digital transformation systems.

ZTE Corp had a 1,100-square-metre booth at the trade show, where it displayed its latest information and communications technology hardware products and applications.

A delegate from US semiconductor company Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) said China remains “very important” to the company, despite external uncertainties.

“Compared with the Barcelona event we just attended, the size of the Shanghai event is smaller but the technology is more ahead as China continues to drive innovation,” said Gilles Garcia, a senior director at AMD’s data centre and communications group.

A total of 300 exhibitors from across the globe took part in MWC Shanghai at the Shanghai International Expo Centre. The event, which marked its first decade in China, was expected to attract 3,000 visitors, according to London-based GSMA. South China Morning Post

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