I had the pleasure of having lunch this week with Stephen Walli, who was in Beijing for a one-day conference on "Open Standards, IPR and Innovation". The event was co-hosted by the The China National Institute of Standardization and Sun Microsystems.
Sun Microsystems continues to be the champion for open standards, and it is good to see them reaching out to China. I highly recommend a read of Stephen's blog to get more insight on this conference.
The conference and the prevailing attitudes did reconfirm my beliefs about the role Linux will play in China. The Chinese are becoming more sophisticated in their evaluation of alternatives, not for the sake of choosing open source over "closed" source, but how they can leverage one against the other. Stephen reported that there was a lot of Microsoft bashing by local officials and private industry representatives. However, this is not new, the government has always been critical of Microsoft, and usually more so right before they make a considerable purchase or concession. The Chinese Government is good about making public outcries not for the sake of change but for sending a message, "we want a better deal".
China is constantly at odds with the West when it comes to standards and companies like Sun, and people like Stephen need to more readily engage the Chinese in finding ways to compromise. The Chinese debate over creating their own RFID standard and the spat with Intel over a Chinese Wireless standard are just a couple examples of how China can dramatically effect OEMs and software companies around the world. China is a huge market, and the Chinese government is very protective of this market. There is the means and the incentive to localize all standards and technology to lock out foreign competition.
This is not such a dangerous precedent for Linux and OSS, for now. There is not a lot of creative developments occurring on the mainland in terms of OSS. Most work is being done by OEMs trying to capitalize on the Linux Kernel for hardware offerings. There is also not many competing agendas for OSS in China where there is generally one authority, the OSS Promotion Union, and just a handful of OSS companies primarily focusing on service.