China dumping foreign tech; It could work

The Chinese government has been working for a long time on replacing foreign, largely American, technology with home-grown alternatives, but conditions are much better for them than in the past.

According to Bloomberg News, China is accelerating their efforts to remove all foreign technology "from banks, the military, state-owned enterprises and key government agencies by 2020." Bloomberg cites "people familiar with the effort."

There have been many reports of this type for years, largely having to do with custom Linux distributions. Such is the case today as well, with NeoKylin slated to replace Microsoft Windows. Some might disagree, but I think that these have always been inadequate due to inadequate applications software.

The difference now is cloud and other Internet software. You don't need to do a whole lot with the host operating system when cloud-based software is available. From one 1984-ish viewpoint, locally-running software is all a risk, and the more that's in the cloud the better for surveillance purposes.

It's not hard to see why the Chinese government would want to do this. They are not the only government to consider policies to maximize their ability to control information flow, and the use of untrusted foreign technology is at odds with that goal. Russia has made similar suggestions as well, but they are nowhere near as well-equipped as the Chinese to pull it off.

China has all the necessary manufacturing capabilities for the hardware. Software is a more difficult proposition, but the open source world and their own experience makes that less of a problem than it has been. It will cost the Chinese a lot to build up all the high-tech industry and expertise they need, but it will be well worth it, and not just for making home-grown general-purpose computing for their own use. Certainly there will be spillover benefits for their military and technology-oriented sectors.

Mobile is an interesting question. The logical thing to do would be to make their own Android, perhaps based on one of the existing custom ROMs like Cyanogenmod. Perhaps they are at work on this already, I haven't heard. China Standard Software (CS2C), the makers of NeoKylin, has something called NeoLite Mobile Terminal OS on their product list. It seems to be (as the name says) a terminal to access cloud-based apps, and the hardware uses Intel Atom processors. I'd say they're not focusing just yet on real mobile devices.

Bloomberg says this is in reaction to the Edward Snowden revelations of US government use of American technology to spy abroad. I can believe that the Snowden affair has accelerated their efforts, but it I can't believe it's a major factor. Surely the Chinese knew these sorts of things were going on even before Snowden, and perhaps they had all the same information already. If Snowden could steal it, so could someone else who sold it to a foreign government rather than blabbing it out in public.

But Snowden may have put more pressure on the responsible Chinese agencies to make the plan operational, at least for appearance's sake.

The government could just order "banks, the military, state-owned enterprises and key government agencies" to use the new gear by 2020. If it's all about cloud access, that could begin before foreign tech is eliminated. As for other businesses and consumers, I wish them luck. Well, no, actually I don't, I just mean that they have a hard sell ahead of them.

But they have a better opportunity at kicking the foreigners out of what they can control than they used to. I used to scoff at the notion, but not anymore.

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