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Chinese Government to Use Only Local Software 534

Posted by michael
from the five-year-plan dept.
owlmon writes "CNET Asia is reporting that China has outlawed foreign software in government applications. I expect that software buyers outside of the government will have to follow this lead. It's the same "network effect" that has powered Microsoft's growth for years. When the entire Chinese government is using WPS Office, anyone doing business with the government will feel mighty encouraged to follow suit. Otherwise, how will they exchange documents?"
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Chinese Government to Use Only Local Software

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  • Double-edged sword (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:31AM (#6730518)
    Don't automatically assume that Chinese gov't will follow the open standards ideology.


    • Even if they dont, we will still get better software. Windows will have competition, Microsoft Word, and all the American software companies will now have competitors in China, this is great.

      Sure not all the companies will be open source, but even if they are closed source you'll still be able to buy or download Chinese software which may be x100 better than the American software we have currently.
      • "Chinese software which may be x100 better than the American software"

        Do you say that because the American software is badly translated? or a sense of chinese superiority?

        I'm not attacking you, just curious as to what prompted that bold assertion.

      • by endfire (527523) <diegointheweb@@@googlemail...com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:09AM (#6730696) Homepage
        I can't really see how this means better software, or more competition, given that they have just banned foreign software, which includes also much of open source software.
        They could just develop some local chinese lousy product. Or alternatively, they could throw in a few highly skilled thousand chinese software developers and develop good products. Either way, it wouldnt be an outcome of free market or competition, and i'd rather not see that product come out of China...

        One Microsoft is enough!
        • by grug0 (696014) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:57AM (#6731411) Journal
          From the article:

          A new policy by China's governing body will rule that all ministries buy only locally-produced software at the next upgrade cycle.

          They haven't banned foreign software per se, rather they have banned buying foreign software. It is an important distinction.

          One Microsoft is enough!

          That's a ridiculous assertion. The government will be using the Red Flag Linux OS, which is hardly going to create the next Microsoft.

      • by torre (620087) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:04AM (#6730866)
        Sure not all the companies will be open source, but even if they are closed source you'll still be able to buy or download Chinese software which may be x100 better than the American software we have currently.

        I understand your exaggerating to make your point but I really doubt that any who sits back and really thinks about the actual impact of this would agree with you. Once you close the loop and force people to use a particular product or source, then your virtually creating a monopoly which as we all know tend to resists doing any real innovation (because frankly they don't have to) to soak up more profits. The real solution to getting better programs is to put them in place via investments/grants/R&D/tax brakes etc, reduce your government IT budgets and give the pencil pushers a choice. We all know the dangers in either making it too easy or too difficult when it comes to government pencil pushers. They'll end up doing what's easier for them and not necessarily what's best.

        Just look at it from a business point of view...what better environment exists to create a lovely company?... 1) find a government that's thinks it needs a software industry to protect against the Americans, 2) grab some free software who's licenses/patents aren't particularly valid under the given government's rules, 3) hire a few severely underpaid code monkeys to make the necessary changes, 4) sit back as huge wads of money start to fall from the sky, 5) hire marketers to ensure that the government keeps coming back for regular upgrades until they become so dependant that they don't consider anything else.

        Why innovate when you can suck the system dry when both parties are happy: the government feeling good about supporting the local community, and the business who's sitting in huge piles of cash..... Kinda reminds me of the Microsoft/IBM deal.... And we all know what happened there...

        Anyhow didn't want to bring you down, we can always hope that your view prevails, but the realist in me just can't see it happen.

    • by ahfoo (223186)
      In fact, you could say the entire three thousand year history of Chinese culture --never mind recent governments-- has treated what American lawyers call intellectual property much the way the FSF suggests.
      In traditional Chinese literature, which includes abundant pornography, it has always been considered a matter of good taste that an author who is proud of his works will sign it pseudonymously. Indeed, writers such as Confucious are not, in fact, individual persons, but popular pseudonyms. This is a
    • In Communist China, the Standards define YOU!

      Sorry.
    • by corgicorgi (692903) <corgi_fun&yahoo,com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:45AM (#6730975) Homepage
      The Chinese goverment has always been promoting local business above the foreign business. It's not just about whether they would adopt open standards. There are many issues when dealing with China.

      In my experience working in the semiconductor industry, I know China's economy in that sector is growing at a rapid rate. Many big name companies here, like HP, SUN, etc are all trying to get a piece of the pie. The only company to successfully grow their business in China is Intel. Everyone else aren't finding a good way to set foot in China. There are many business standards that China does not adopt from global businesses.

      A main one is China does not recognize Intellectual Property. You bring your products to China, a local company to rip your design and sell it at a cheaper price. The goverment will not protect you against that. In fact, I might suspect they allow that kind of business conduct.

      This is what I've learn about growing business in China for the semiconductor industry. I would imagine software industry is similar.
  • World standards (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Otherwise, how will they exchange documents?

    Yes, but how will they exchange documents with the rest of the world that's using the de facto standard, MS Office?

    Sounds like a pretty stupid plan to me:

    1) Homegrown software
    2) Force it on everybody
    3) ???
    4) Profit!

    • Re:World standards (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rsilvergun (571051)
      Microsoft will have to make their product (Office) compatible with whatever china uses. Not the other way around. How ever powerful MS is, the Chinese Government has way more leverage than them on the open market.
    • Re:World standards (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Max Threshold (540114)
      Perhaps the rest of the world should be asking itself, how do we exchange documents with China? China isn't some insignificant little country, you know. They're modernizing and Westernizing, at least in some ways, and they're economically huge. If this decision works out well for them, other countries will follow suit. Then, the only stupid people will be the ones still using MS Office.
    • Re:World standards (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:48AM (#6730605)
      3) Spend money on local economy rather giving it away to a foreign company

      Unlike private users, governments should take public interest into account when buying software. For example, US government could do well to avoid buying software from companies that have excessive foreign development centers :-)

      They can still exchange documents with the rest of the world by exporting them to some standard format, like HTML or RTF. If there is no software to do it, government's demands will sure encourage some local programs to be written.

      It would be another matter if they forced common people use a specific word processor, with a nice keyword scanner that reports suspicious documents to the government. Its not out of the question in China, and perhaps in US. But that's something unrelated to this article.
  • Conversion Filter? (Score:4, Informative)

    by teklob (650327) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:33AM (#6730527)
    Most of my school, and offices, and home users in general use MS Word. Just because thats the mainstream, I don't have to run MS word or even windows to work with them. I use the linux alternatives like OpenOffice, Koffice etc. which converts MS word documents just fine. You don't always have to conform to be compatbile
    • by Anonymous Coward
      which converts MS word documents just fine.

      Fine if you write a few letters or track your spending with a small spreadsheet.

      However, anything complex and critical (like the stuff you send to your client or they send to you) must convert with 100% accuracy. This is why Koffice or OpenOffice will not do well in a business environment.

      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:07AM (#6730872)
        However, anything complex and critical (like the stuff you send to your client or they send to you) must convert with 100% accuracy. This is why Koffice or OpenOffice will not do well in a business environment.

        If it's "complex or critical", you shouldn't be using Word anyway. If it's plain text, use ASCII. If it's formatted, use PDF. By all means, use Word to compose your documents, but it's a terrible exchange or achival format.

        Anyway, I've worked in offices for over 10 years. For business purposes, WordStar 4 was fine. It had spellcheck, it had bold. What else do you need in a business document? (I admit, I later upgraded to WordStar 5.)

        I also do DTP. For that I extract the text from the Word docs that have unfortunately become ubiquitous before laying them out in a rational way using stylesheets. Then I make PDFs to pass on to the printer.

        All this talk about "incompatibility" is basically FUD. If you want compatibiity, use an open standard, not a transient obfuscated undocumented one that has the bonus feature of including viruses.

    • Maybe you think OpenOffice.org Writer and Koffice convert MS Word documents "just fine," but do you know what saves MS Word documents even better? MS Word. Sometimes those few things the conversion filters still mess up are important. Though they do work most of the time, conversion filters aren't perfect, nor are they the easiest or best solution.

      Besides, last time I checked OOo didn't support WPS Office formats. Does China have local competition in the word processing market? Is there a Chinese Free Soft
      • by Zemran (3101)
        To some degree I agree with you but often I have found that converting a .doc file into OO has resolved a problem that collegues were having. The idea of .doc being a 'standard' is a nonsense. It is not even a 'standard' in the MS world as collegues using different versions of MS Office can have problems. Most of the problems are caused by fonts not being available on the different machines and that is what causes most of the issues with opening a .doc file in OO. Other problems caused by issues like er
      • do you know what saves MS Word documents even better? MS Word.

        Actually, this isn't true. I regularly recover MS Word 2000 documents using OpenOffice. Word creates files it later cannot read back in on a fairly regular basis, and OpenOffice seems to be able to read them, even when Word can't.
        1. Create document in MS-Word
        2. Save document
        3. Try to re-open document. Word crashes, refuses to read it, or similar
        4. Open document with Openoffice Writer
        5. Remove corrupted text (thanks, Word!)
        6. Save back to Word format
        7. User
    • The data format is owned by Microsoft, it is underspecified and is apt to random changes from version to version.

      While it is possible to write converters supporting to some degree some versions of Word format, they tend to work only for simple documents. If unsure, try importing a Word document with non-trivial markup or mathematical formulas into office suite of your choice. Or even try importing such a document from MS Word 97 to MS Word 2000...
    • by jvervloet (532924)

      I'm not an expert in these things, but isn't it possible that these conversion filters become illegal because of the DMCA ?

  • ...but they'll pirate our music, our movies, and forget about the whole human rights thing. Maybe we should send the British navy back in to convince them to start buying our goods again.
    • by HanzoSan (251665) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:52AM (#6730624) Homepage Journal


      Guess what, We cant afford our software, you go buy photoshop, I'll use Gimp.

      Do you think I care if they dont buy our intellectual property when I dont own any of it and dont profit from any of its sales? Do you think I care if they pirate music when artists dont even own the copyrights on the music?

      Its not a matter of them buying our goods, if their goods are better and cheaper why not buy theirs? Sure I prefer to buy goods made in the USA to support the US economy, but I'm not rich, so a choice must be made, if our products are equally as good and the same price I'll always buy ours, but if their products are better and cost less I'll be forced to buy theirs.

      Either way their cheaper products will force the price of our products down, this will help the economy.

      • Do you think I care if they dont buy our intellectual property when I dont own any of it and dont profit from any of its sales? Do you think I care if they pirate music when artists dont even own the copyrights on the music?

        Extremely good point and well made. Sure piracy is wrong and under current laws illegal. It is really hard to care when the alleged "victims" are multi-billion dollar corps who seem intent on stamping out real music in favour of plastic manufactured nonsense and who are unwilling to

    • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:01AM (#6730660)
      "Maybe we should send the British navy back in to convince them to start buying our goods again."

      Ah yes, the "free market" by military cooercion. Works every time. You do understand that this behaviour played a significant role in the success of the rise of communism in China in the first place?

      Nevermind the fact that American copyright law does not extend beyond its borders and that the Chinese ( and Icelandics, Hugarians, New Guinians, Bhutanese, etc.) have the right to decide on their own just what constitutes "piracy" of intellectual property and what doesn't. The Chinese are free to take a more Jeffersonian approach to such matters than America is if they wish to. Ironic, isn't it?

      Nor are the Chinese alone in such "piracy." Walk up to nearly any street vendor in NYC and you can walk away with bucket loads of pirated and unlicensed merchandise. At one point the Sam Goody Record stores were selling illegal rips as the legitimate article as fast as they could truck them in. Hell, you yourself just might be in possession of "pirated" music or movies obtained through various purely American channels.

      Free Tibet. Up with Democracy. Fine. I'm with you.

      But Intellectual "Property" isn't natural law. It's a purely human construct of extremely recent vintage and more dubious under the American Constitutional form of government than just about any other.

      It's local code. Like how long you get to park at a meter for your quarter.

      China isn't in our local jurisdiction.

      KFG
    • That sounds like such an intelligent idea! Yes, do let's send the British navy over there, just like the opium wars (that was when queen Victoria was the greatest drug dealer in the world). After all there is all of ~50 million Brits, and the Chinese are just 1.2 billion.

      As for human rights issues - I wonder how they would compare if one actually made an honest analysis? China still does have some serious issues I'm sure, but as far as I can see, they are actually working on improving things. On the other
    • They don't pirate a thing. They just use what they thing is a correct law regarding IP. And Ia gree with them. The trueth is: there is no IP. All result of intellectual activity belong to the public domain. Period. It's US that breakes natural laws. Writing the software or music is not building anything material - it's a discovery of what has been existing in the nature alway, forever. Publishing CD is a different story. But once they buy a first copy of that CD than relax, you don't own the content. Well,
    • by gotan (60103) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:25AM (#6730759) Homepage
      So they pirate "your" music and whatnot and decide not to embrace american IP law that's more and more perverted to serve just one purpose: keep the big (mostly US-) corporations on top and make it hard for anyone else to enter the market. And why shoud China play by a set of rules that only puts them at a disadvantage? The USA didn't either, if they did they'd probably still be some kind of british colony but definitly not what they are today. Neither did americans respect foreign IP when they reprinted works of foreign authors without paying royalties until 1891 [piercelaw.edu].

      And yeah, why not send in the troops when economic interests are threatened. Like invading Iraq for example (and no, they didn't find those weapons of mass destruction, or any proof of a connection to al Quaeda, all they found out was that all official reasons for starting that war were bogus and that Bush and Blair even knew they were bogus).
  • Nice to see ! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by numb (241932) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:35AM (#6730541) Homepage Journal
    It would be great to see usa work the same way and supporting their own OS makers. Instead of supporting them, usa sues them and tries to split em up...

    Logic: No.
    • Finally a government that is willing to take an anti-globalization stance. I'd like to see more countries follow suit.

      -a
  • by KCardoza (593977) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:36AM (#6730543) Homepage
    Do the folks making WPS Office make available the data needed to make other office suites, like OpenOffice.org and ABIWord, able to read and write in WPS Office's format? Or does WPS use some format already recognized by an alternative office package?
  • GPL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by porkface (562081) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:37AM (#6730549) Journal
    What if they decide to ignore the GPL and start stealing code without offering sources?
    • Re:GPL (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slittle (4150)
      Aren't they only obligated to 'offer sources' if they distribute binaries? If it's an internal govt project, outsiders are SOL.
      • Re:GPL (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kfg (145172) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:18AM (#6730738)
        Even if they distribute they are only "obligated" to do what Chinese law obligates them too. Why is this such a difficult concept for some people? Your GPL may well simply have no legal standing in Beijing.

        If you think it does than you can hire a Chinese lawyer to make your case in the Chinese courts.

        If they distribute in Newark and you feel they are thus obligated under US law all you have to do is legally serve them ( under US law) to appear in Newark.

        Then we'll just have to free "Skylorov" all over again.

        Remember him? The guy who wrote software in Russia that was legal in Russia and we all got bent out of shape over his being arrested for violating extortionate American Intellectual "Property" laws?

        People, for God's sake, try to figure out what your stance on ip is and stick to it. The GPL only exists in the first place because of western copyright law and seeks to subvert it with its own weapons. If such western copyright law does not exist as such the GPL becomes a non issue.

        KFG
        • Re:GPL (Score:5, Interesting)

          by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:07AM (#6730874) Homepage Journal
          Even if they distribute they are only "obligated" to do what Chinese law obligates them too
          China is a member of the WTO now, and joined the Berne Convention on copyright. That means that, if the GPL has no standing in Chinese law, then the additional rights granted by the GPL (reduistribution of source) are not available under Chinese law.
          • Re:GPL (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cybercuzco (100904)
            That means that, if the GPL has no standing in Chinese law, then the additional rights granted by the GPL (reduistribution of source) are not available under Chinese law. Should the Chinese choose to enforce said law. There are many laws on the books in China that are not enforced by the govt because its easier or because it allows people to make more money. And its much much harder to sue the govt to enforce said laws than it is here in the US.


    • Simple, we pirate their software and then offer it up for download all over the internet to the Chinese.

      What are they going to do? Sue you? LMAO

      If they dont follow our rules why should we follow theirs? If they try to sell open source software, we buy it, crack it and give it away. Problem solved.
    • Re:GPL (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bas_Wijnen (523957)

      GPL'd code is usually hard to steal, since anyone who has it is allowed to make copies and distribute them.

      But that's not what you mean. You mean they will use a GPL'd program, change it, and block it from being exported. Nothing will stop them (except ethics maybe, but I don't get the feeling world leaders have much of that). And it's not even illegal (according to international law, or even US copyright law (which is void in China btw)).

      The people distributing the source allow redistribution, just

      • Re:GPL (Score:3, Informative)

        by PhilHibbs (4537)
        or even US copyright law (which is void in China btw)
        China are signatory to the Berne Convention, which is close enough.
  • I wonder: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tokerat (150341) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:37AM (#6730550) Journal

    Would Linux and other open source be considered "local" if there are Chineese contributors?
    • Re:I wonder: (Score:5, Informative)

      by rsilvergun (571051) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:46AM (#6730595)
      Yes. From the article:

      "China is placing official support behind the Red Flag Linux operating system, which they trust because the open-source code allows officials to see that there are no data spyholes installed by foreign powers."

      What matters is that who's selling it is based in China, and that any standards that come from outside China are open. Even if there are no Chinese contributers, as long as it's Chinese selling and supporting it, it's fine.
  • OpenOffice support? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Goenk (218485)
    It could be interesting to know if OpenOffice.org is planning to support the WPS file formats, thus being 'the one office-suite' (and in the darkness bind them :-)
  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:39AM (#6730556)
    The article only briefly mentions it, but the Chinese government is still fully behind Red Flag Linux. It's safe to say that their entire IT infrastructure will soon be based on Free Software. Unfortunately, the article doesn't delve too deeply into the causes, merits, and implications of this decision.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:54AM (#6730633)


      > Unfortunately, the article doesn't delve too deeply into the causes, merits, and implications of this decision.

      No, but it does make passing mention of a couple of things, which were pretty much predictable anyway:

      a) Stem hemorrhaging of cash from China to Redmond, Wash.

      b) Stem hemorrhaging of information via spyware.

      I've been predicting for several years that (b) alone will eventually cause most governments to convert to open source (or home-made) software. The risks of not doing so are simply too great, and in fact I'm surprised that there hasn't been a mass exodus already.

      • a) Stem hemorrhaging of cash from China to Redmond, Wash.
        b) Stem hemorrhaging of information via spyware.


        I think you're much more correct with a) than with b). This is the same reason that China has developed its own processor. China wants to cut economic ties as much as possible to the US, particularly in the economic sector. This move, of turning to Red Flag Linux, was expected for a while now.
        But as China follows this path, the US may lash out economically. Or maybe the US will just start a new opium [wikipedia.org]
    • There's lots of commercial OSS software the Chinese government is still intending to use.
  • Not so bad (Score:3, Funny)

    by Barnett (550375) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:39AM (#6730557) Homepage
    > Otherwise, how will they exchange documents?

    Anyone remember paper?
    • Re:Not so bad (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pair-a-noyd (594371)
      Don't laugh.
      I went to an office supply store and the little girl there had NO CLUE ON PLANET EARTH what carbon paper is. She didn't even know what isle to begin looking on, she thought it might be with the inkjet cartridges when I told her it was a special paper for making copies of handwritten or typewritten documents.

      She even told me she had never seen a typewriter before but had heard of them. She thought is was some sort of word processor. (Yeah, it was one of the first!)

      It's amazing how fast we've
  • by corebreech (469871) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:41AM (#6730574) Journal
    It would be interesting to see an OS/software written from the ground up in a completely different language, esp. one that used pictograms.

    But as it is, it's all going to be based on software written in English-ish programming languages, isn't that right?

    So, I can understand the urge to go local, but I don't think they're going far enough. Imagine the impediment we would face if we had to learn how to write software for an OS that was based on, say, Mandarin. How many of us would really have ended up taking to computers?

    So doesn't that apply in reverse?

    And to make matters worse, they say English is the hardest second language to learn. And most of the advanced texts in CS are in English. The HOWTO's are all in English (yeah I know there are foreign language versions but let's be real, it isn't as complete or as up-to-date as the ones in English.)
    • I have to disagree with you on a few things. First of all, I don't believe English is the hardest second language to learn, but that's not really important.


      It would be interesting to see an OS/software written from the ground up in a completely different language, esp. one that used pictograms.


      If you have any experience in programming, you probably know that the trick usually is to translate functionality and ideas into abstract steps (algorithms). The translation to a programming language is then but
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Do the people making WPS Office make the data needed to make other office suites available, like OpenOffice, to be able to read and write in WPS Office's format? Or does WPS use a format recognized by alternative office packages?
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LuYu (519260) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:52AM (#6730626) Homepage Journal

    It is interesting to see an oppressive government fighting for its freedom from an oppressive corporation.

    It looks like both sides are getting a taste of their own medicine.

  • by The Revolutionary (694752) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:56AM (#6730644) Homepage Journal
    WPS Office is, unless something has changed, as proprietary as is Microsoft Office.

    And AVS for audio/video is patent/royalty encumbered [china.org.cn].

    How is it in the interests of the people in any nation, that daily government operations and communication be dependent upon a private corporation?

    When will we see a government -- a people -- that will stand up to large corporate interests and fund the development and deployment of an open source office suite and groupware servers and clients, of similar or higher quality than existing proprietary solutions, so that the daily operation of our government will not be dependent upon the business strategies of private corporations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:06AM (#6730682)
    Look at the propoganda wording being used!

    Chinese government "outlaws" foreign software! Oh those evil bastards!

    But when the USA government mandates MS it's not "outlawing foreign software" it's just "helping the economy by buying domestically".

    What a crock...
  • by losttoy (558557) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:08AM (#6730689)
    The move is not to stop sale of non-chinese software but to force software MNCs to invest in China and start their development facilities in China.

    This is nothing new. In the middle-east most countries require foreign companies to partner with a local company that holds the controlling stake. So for example, IBM operates as GBM (Gulf Business Machines) in the middle-east.

    So, the Chinese government won't buy software from M$(US) but from M$(China) after M$ sets up a development facility in China. This will also force MNCs to divert investments from other competing economies like India, Indonesia, Philipines etc.

    On the other hand, desktops and servers could run Linux and other open source software customised for Chinese, networking equipment would be sourced from Hua-Wei, chips are already manufactured in China. What else's remaining??

  • by vnv (650942) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:08AM (#6730691)
    Do a Google search on "microsoft word hidden information" and it is plain as day why China, amongst many other governments and organizations, is switching off of Microsoft Office / Microsoft Windows.

    From BBC News [bbc.co.uk] -- "Your Microsoft Word document can give readers more information about you than you might think. Even Alastair Campbell has fallen foul of the snippets of invisible data few of us realise our documents contain."

    If you use Microsoft Word in a business environment -- or for anything where your information is valuable -- it is recommended that you look into what hidden files [wordsite.com] may be hiding in your Word documents.

    It is becoming more clear that all of Windows and every Microsoft application is likely to be similar to Microsoft Word -- filled with hidden information and hidden functionality that has never been disclosed by Microsoft.

    An aphorism of gambling says, "Only make a bet when you can afford to lose". In China's case, your entire nation's strength and health is at risk when they are using Microsoft software, so it simple to see that it is a bet that cannot be made.

    Sun Tzu wrote "All war is deception." The big deception is Microsoft's "Source Code for Governments". What does that matter when you download binary "security" patches, "updates", "new drivers", "service packs", etc? What does that matter when you don't get to see the Microsoft Office source code? Microsoft's "Emperor's New Source Code" program is nothing but smoke and mirrors, deception at its finest. It looks like the Chinese have wised up to Microsoft's deception and given Microsoft the boot.

    What will it take for the rest of the world to wake up and realize that the only software you can trust is open source?

    • by zonix (592337)
      Even Alastair Campbell has fallen foul of the snippets of invisible data few of us realise our documents contain.

      Back in 2002 one of the Danish Prime Minister's opening speeches written in Office XP was made available on the Net. The document included previous drafts which could be rolled back.

      The drafts revealed that he did not write the entire speech himself, and of course, also things which should have been left "unsaid". I remember the "unsaid" part caused a bit of a stir - to some extend it revealed

  • How? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tuxlove (316502)
    Otherwise, how will they exchange documents?

    Text files? Other non-proprietary standard formats?
  • Makes sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vandan (151516) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:12AM (#6730710) Homepage
    With the US government's current foreign policy, it's no wonder other countries are skeptical of software from companies such as Microsoft that are 'in bed' with them ( see Microsoft anti-trust trial for evidence of relationship between Microsoft and government ).
    If Microsoft wants to stay on top, they will have to distance themselves from the US government, or they will simply not be trusted.
    Or perhaps it's too late...
  • Last week, they declared that they will apply very strong restrictions on their soybean and grain imports, effectively putting most American and Japanese grain trading companies on a blacklist for most of the main grain originating countries (US for corn, Brazil and Argentina for soybean and other grain products). Needless to say this will have a big impact on the world economy.

    Now, this is not the same kind of commodity (obviously) but it's the same kind of attitude. I wonder what's the next step for the

    • by nich37ways (553075) <slashdot@37ways.org> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:16AM (#6730903) Homepage
      Hmm let us see:
      Japan in July 2003 upped beef tarrifs to 50%
      America pushed up Steel tarrifs recently, has massive subsidys for farmers.
      Europe well their farm subsidys are ridiculous with some places in Ireland been better off not growing their crops with the subsidys offered.

      So yeah obviously bad China, the only country in the world to use tariffs. BAD BAD BAD play fair no tariffs just like all those other countries in the world, oh wait there isnt any!!

      As for banning people from certain countries, every country does that it is called a VISA and what happens is you simply do not let people in from the country you do not like.
  • Free Software? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:13AM (#6730715) Journal
    Does anyone know anything about China's record with regards to free software? I think most people here have read about Red Flag Linux (kinda funny that an OS that prides itself on its openness, internationality, and general disdain for borders would be branded in such a nationalistic way, imho :P) but do we know anything about what China has returned to the community? ie, are they committed to the GPL?
    • Re:Free Software? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:41AM (#6730809) Homepage Journal
      How is calling it Red Flag nationalistic? The red flag has a history as a symbol of socialism and revolution and the labor movement worldwide ever since the French revolution, and is still used worldwide. You may not like the symbolism or it's use, but how one could label it nationalistic is beyond me.
      • Re:Free Software? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Moridineas (213502)
        Oh, I think you misunderstood me. I wasn't _criticizing_ the fact that China chose such a, as you describe it, political symbol, and as I see it, a nationalistic one. You might do well to read some about the Chinese government -- to NOT describe the Chinese govt as nationalistic is a very big mistake and shows a poor understanding.

        My response would be the same should Suse rebrand their distro as Reich Linux, or the CIA released Uncle Sam Linux.
  • staggeringly naive (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BobTheLawyer (692026)
    Those who think this is a wonderful example of a move away from Microsoft towards alternatives and/or open source are being staggeringly naive.

    This is all about the ageing despots who run China trying to keep political and economic control over technological changes. Instead of restricting access to dangerous material at the server/network end (http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/02/09/02/0246224.sht m l?tid=153) it looks to me like they're trying to restrict and control at the client end. Think Palladium driven b
    • Your missing the point. This weakens and potentially halts Microsoft's expansion into the emerging Chinese economy. Like all publically traded companies Microsoft has an insatiable appetite for growth. Deprived of the Chinese economy, they'll be forced to leverage their monopoly in the U.S. and elsewhere to continue growing and improve 'Share Holder Value'. Hopefully the process will turn their customer base off enough they'll try Linux.

      Beyond that, I think you're being a little too cynical. It's perfect
    • by vnv (650942)

      It is no great leap of imagination that when all code can contain spyware, spyholes, hidden data, etc., that "opening the source" is a big step towards trust.

      In China, there are many factions to the power base. If the source code for software is not open, then even these factions cannot trust each other. Maybe a general put in special spy code. Maybe the information ministry put in special spy code. The possibilities are endless. The only solution is keeping the source open. A government that fights too m

  • More hackable? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Agent R (684654)
    Anyone care to fathom how many more hackable machines will be available in China after this changeover?

    Their official IT people won't even fix the thousands of hijacked proxies that are already compromised.
  • by Matrix2110 (190829) * on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:22AM (#6730748) Journal
    This is good for China and great for open-source.

    China gains in the short term by throwing off the handcuffs offered by BG. and Co.

    Open-source gains down the road when China starts giving back. This may take a few years, but once open source gets a foothold in China it will be massively adopted (We are seeing this right now) but more importantly, we might be seeing the start of a common language for China.

    What we get back from the Chinese via the GPL may be more than we bargained for.

    And I am hoping uniting China under a Free software initiative will perhaps take on a life of its own.

    • by The Revolutionary (694752) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:26AM (#6730934) Homepage Journal
      WPS Office is proprietary and AVS (their video/audio standard) is patent/royalty encumbered.

      While there is Red Flag Linux, I wonder whether we have any reason to believe that the government of China will not act in the interests of proprietary software producers just as much as do the governments of Western nations.

      In the case of Red Flag Linux, it may simply be that it is deemed acceptable because there does not exist any satisfactory proprietary and locally produced operating system.

      Whereas with an office suite and the audio/video protocol where there are existing local proprietary solutions, the government seems more than willing to favor these existing proprietary solutions over existing open source solutions, and also over developing new open source solutions which would compete with these existing proprietary solutions.

      I'm not quite ready to praise the government of China over this move.
  • Trade implications (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Draveed (664730) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:53AM (#6730843)
    I tried skimming all these responses, but I didn't see anyone else mention it. China, by banning a foreign software product, is raising a barrier to trade. At the same time, China wants to join the World Trade Organization (they didn't get accepted yet right?). So in the end, this law sounds like something the WTO is going to demand China repeal if they want to join.
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      At the same time, China wants to join the World Trade Organization (they didn't get accepted yet right?). So in the end, this law sounds like something the WTO is going to demand China repeal if they want to join.

      They're already in. And this is a ruling on what government ministries can use, which is easily cast as national security, which is excempt from WTO rules. Could China complain that they can't tender for software for the Pentagon? Anyway, the US pisses on the WTO whenever it feels like it. The 3r

  • by kiravuo (189871) <kiravuo@iki.fi> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:15AM (#6730898) Homepage
    Trying to encourage the development of technology in your country by limiting access of outside competition has been tried before. In many cases this has given rise to national champions, who are behind the world in the quality of their products and has caused the customers to suffer. For example consumers in India were stuck with outdated mechanical and electorincal products, until the controls were lifted and the market flooded with mostly Chinece produtcs. The consumers benefited and the local manufacturers were shaken badly.

    In a similar way the Finnish government was stuck for years with a national government developed word processing program in the 1980's and early 1990's.

    So from this point of view the Chinese government might be painting itself into a technology corner, potentially being stuck to an inferior product.

    However the Chinese market is so huge that there is room for internal competition. Also software as a product has a tendency towards forming a monopoly, due to the high costs of entering the market and the low costs of replicating the product. So an occasional shaking of the emergent structure might well be justified.

    We should also be asking how much the EU bureocracy is paying to Microsoft each year and how much could be saved by moving to Open Office.

    It would be interesting to know if the Chinese directive is targeted only to office applications or if it applies to other software also. This could be a boon to the Chinese software industry in terms of ERP software, network managemet, CAD etc.

    kiravuo
  • Compatibility (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:05AM (#6731245)
    When the entire Chinese government is using WPS Office, anyone doing business with the government will feel mighty encouraged to follow suit. Otherwise, how will they exchange documents?

    This really depends on how open the file formats are. Back when Microsoft was fighting for the Office market, I started using Word because the import/export filters were so good that I could use Word as a translator between the several word processors that everyone was dealing with. It wasn't until they owned the market that they started being incompatible with everyone, including earlier versions of their own software.

    I see nothing but good coming from this. With one of the world's largest countries using something else, Microsoft will be facing a lot of market pressure to make their file formats regular and available for conversion to other formats and clean up thir act on being able to import from other formats.
  • China joined the WTO (Score:3, Informative)

    by factorinc (699477) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @08:45AM (#6731665)
    Since I see a lot of common fears in the threads above, I'd like to reiterate that the news report was discussing that the Chinese government was in the process of upgrading to a new VERSION of the same software package. They haven't been using MS Office, and probably won't start soon. Not all parts of the government have to conform to this policy, special exceptions are allowed upon request.

    This policy won't change how businesses or individuals in China have to operate, nor do we know if Hong Kong's government will have to change. China has entered the WTO, as of January 1st 2004 they are opening their market to free trade. A lot of the old intellectual property issues will be fixed over the next few years, mainland China is soon to become the biggest importer of British and American goods (by way of Hong Kong of course!)
  • We shall see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hangtime (19526) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @08:57AM (#6731726) Homepage
    Forget about the Free Software angle for the moment, how is this any different then we as a country (the United States) saying we will only use American-based software. The answer is, it isn't. I am more concerned for the ability of American companies to develop software and export it to China then I am about Free Software. While this may see like a wonderful thing for Linux and the much larger software suites and it maybe great, its a real crap storm for small companies that provide niche-based software.

    Look at all the software packages that might be used in the Chinese government created by companies all over the world. Now these companies are being told "Nope, you can't sell here anymore." That's a great deal of the world's producers being effectively shut out based on nationality. This is not a win for Free Software, this is a win for protectionism disguised (apparently very well) as advocacy for Free Software. This is no different then farm subsidies in Europe, and U.S. protection of the steel industry. (I have problems with both by the way).

    One final thought, the last country in the world I would expose my source to is the Chinese government. The Chinese have not been known to be respecters of intellectual property. How fast do you think it would take for source of your application you developed to be handed over to a competing Chinese company. A month tops I believe.

    As for you apologist who believe it necessary to protect new industries in developing countries, I have a rebuttal when it comes to software. The reason to protect industries like this would be because they have high barriers-to-entry and large capital costs. For instance, the building of farm equipment is one I would support because it is both resource intensive and long lead times to development and production. Software on the other hand is just the opposite. I can seat down someone in Russia, India, China, Egypt, Costa Rica, or the US give them a text editor and a compiler and they can become a software company. The resources and talent to build software can be found anywhere in the world as long as you got a computer and an internet connection to download the software. Therefore protecting local software companies, especially as an inflow of jobs comes from other parts of the world at the same time, is protectionism at its worst.
  • by WoTG (610710) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @03:37PM (#6736338) Homepage Journal
    what would Slashdot say?

    "Hurray for advanced socialist societies that care! First health care, then the software industry."
    "Good for them! Anything to reduce Microsoft's power."
    "Those Europeans are smart, they'll save a lot of money this way."

    Ah well. At least not all of the comments in this thread were completely negative.

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