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China is ramping up its campaign against Microsoft, following its ban in May on the installation of Windows 8 on government computers.
According to ECT News Network officials of China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce reportedly have made unannounced visits to Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. They apparently questioned staff in at least one office.
There’s speculation that the move is tied to China’s concerns about the United States National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program, for which Microsoft and other prominent high-tech vendors reportedly have provided data. Or the visits could be the latest move in a trade war between China and the U.S.
“We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the [Chinese] government may have,” Jessie Wong, of Microsoft’s PR agency, told the E-Commerce Times, echoing the company’s stock statement in response to this issue.
Foreign technology services providers such as Google and Apple could pose a cybersecurity threat to Chinese users, China’s state-run People’s Daily warned in June. Microsoft and other major tech companies were required to transfer user information to the NSA, it also said, citing a China-based cybersecurity expert.
One week earlier, Beijing had announced it would impose a security review on imported technology equipment. The Bush administration in 2006 canceled plans to purchase about US$1.3 million-worth of Lenovo PCs from CDW, reportedly because of fears the company might have installed backdoors at the behest of the Chinese government.
President Obama last year banned U.S. government agencies from purchasing Chinese computer technology in retaliation for Chinese hackers’ attacks on U.S. companies. In a related development, the U.S. Department of Justice this May charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets.