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NYTimes: China Backs Linux

By kmself in News
Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 12:27:25 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

It's a headline we've seen before, this time it was staring at me from the New York Times website: Fearing Control by Microsoft, China Backs the Linux System, "We don't want one company to monopolize the software market," said Chen Chong, a deputy minister of information industries who oversees the computer industry in China. With Linux, "we can control the security," he added, so "we can control our own destiny."


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The significance is that this appears to mark, if not official support for Linux, a more pronounced stance favoring free software over the proprietary alternative offered by Microsoft. Recent stories have indicated support for Linux -- IT-Directory.com (thanks: LinuxToday) ran a May 5, 2000 story China Backs Red Flag Linux, It's Unofficial: the Chinese government is encouraging the use of Linux, while at the same time pretending not to. Similar stories have run in ZDNet, EE Times, and elsewhere.

The Times cites a number of concerns behind the Chinese moves, including competition, security, and a preference to open source. There's also a hint that overseas outsourcing may have played a role as well, with messages planted by Taiwan developers not falling to favorably on mainland bureaucrats' ears.

Note: Times links are to www10.nytimes.com, should not require registration.

Note by Inoshiro: updated the links. Accidently deleted story (oops), hopefully no one linked to the old SID :)

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Related Links
o ZDNet
o New York Times
o Fearing Control by Microsoft, China Backs the Linux System
o China Backs Red Flag Linux, It's Unofficial
o ZDNet [2]
o EE Times
o Also by kmself


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NYTimes: China Backs Linux | 34 comments (27 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
will that be... (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by evro on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 04:39:55 AM EST

Red Sickle Linux?

<rimshot>
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
Re: will that be... (none / 0) (#10)
by Imperator on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 07:16:10 PM EST

More like its derivative on another platform, Yellow Star Linux.

[ Parent ]
I see nothing wrong with this (none / 0) (#6)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 02:43:47 PM EST

This is good news... I just hope, however, that ESR doesn't decide to foam at the mouth and claim that all "true geeks" won't stand for this like he did when this was only a rumor.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Trusting soul. (none / 0) (#19)
by marlowe on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 08:39:36 AM EST

There's not a chance in hell the PRC will respect the letter or the spirit of the GPL. They're simply using Linux for their own ends, namely, to keep Microsoft from threatening their own power. This is the way those folks think.

--- A vacant engineer rides on a train of thought that will not take him home ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: Trusting soul. (none / 0) (#26)
by Snomed on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 09:32:17 PM EST

There's not a chance in hell the PRC will respect the letter or the spirit of the GPL.

Consider this: If it's true that the "hacker gene" or even the hacker spirit has been bred out or suppressed in China, the Chinese will need the good will of the open source community in the West. To get the good will of the community, they will need to demonstrate that they are playing by the GPL rules.

The Chinese aren't stupid and it will be obvious to them that antagonizing the Linux community would be a losing strategy. I think they will respect the GPL in order to gain the good will of the community.
------------------

[ Parent ]

Re: Trusting soul. (none / 0) (#32)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 01:45:34 PM EST

I thought mainland China didn't respect copyright laws (I seem to recall seeing gobs of xerox copies of scientific journals there on some TV/news program). If this is the case, what's the GPL to them? They can turn a single Linux distro into 100,000 copies far easier than a W2K one, methinks.

[ Parent ]
Re: Trusting soul. (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by KindBud on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 05:20:14 PM EST

The Chinese aren't stupid and it will be obvious to them that antagonizing the Linux community would be a losing strategy. I think they will respect the GPL in order to gain the good will of the community.

No one needs to "gain the good will of the community" to benefit from its works. If it suits China's purposes to ignore the GPL, who will enforce compliance? I think everyone recognizes that a open source boycott of China would be silly to attempt. They are free to antagonize anyone they want, as much as they want (unless the target possesses nuclear weapons, and even then...).

What would you propose the community's response should be if China decides to ignore the GPL? Let's say they create their own Linux distro, add proprietary extensions to facilitate monitoring by the state, and decline to contribute their modifications back to the community? What recourse is there?

I don't think that's a very far-fetched scenario, either.

--
just roll a fatty

[ Parent ]

What? (none / 0) (#11)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 09:48:39 PM EST

There's also a hint that overseas outsourcing may have played a role as well, with messages planted by Taiwan developers not falling to favorably on mainland bureaucrats' ears.

I have no idea what the above sentence is attempting to comminucate. Before the ',' things were hard going, after was was the cliff face of confusion and the free fall of uncomprehension followed by the splat of my mind as it runs into the '.' that ends all hope of understanding.

Comments (none / 0) (#16)
by kmself on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 01:40:18 AM EST

Microsoft apparently employed Taiwanese (aka Republic of China, ROC) developers to create the Chinese localized version of Microsoft Windows. These developers seeded the product with a number of phrases atagonistic to Mainland China (aka People's Republic of China, PRC). One of the non-obvious risks of outsourced development. I'd imagine you'd have similar issues, say, outsourcing to India and/or Pakistan for subcontinent-localized software.

The ROC/PRC issue was mentioned in the article. Maybe I am overly fond of obscure references....

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

China inserts its own backdoors (3.00 / 3) (#12)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 08, 2000 at 11:45:07 PM EST

Given Chinas past history of human rights abuses, I find it worrying when they adopt Open Source. This is good news for them; we all benefit by using it. But their using Linux doesn't mean they won't keep subtle backdoors all over the system for the monitoring and control of their citizens computer use. What a coup; far easier to implement than the Great Firewall they've currently been battling to keep up-to-date. How will your average Chinese user be able to find out about these holes? Will it be illegal to close and fix them? Will the citizens be fed a line of bull about certain programs needing to run on their system for reasons of "state security"? Will you risk getting shot in the back of the head for replacing a trojanned ftpd binary with a clean one? In the free world, such ideas are laughable. I don't think so in China. I fear we may have made a billion peoples lives much worse, rather than better. *sigh* I just hope the good we've done outweighs the harm.

-- A Debian Developer

Re: China inserts its own backdoors (none / 0) (#13)
by 31: on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 12:08:03 AM EST

sure, they could... but then, why wait till now, and why use linux... i might be crazy, but with a billion people, they should be able to find enough people competent to work on an operating system of their own.
Of course, with a billion people there, they should also be able to have enough people to find a way to simulate any backdoors/what not that would be put it...
but then, what happens if you're right... shipping in windows to china to free them from oppresive computing... well.. sounds somewhat funny.

-Patrick
[ Parent ]
Re: China inserts its own backdoors (1.50 / 2) (#15)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 01:33:52 AM EST

You might find this hard to beleive, but from my travels and contacts there I've noted that the culture there does not produce what we know as "hackers". The culture is wrong. "Hackers" get shot down, shot, imprisoned, or exiled. The hacker gene has been consistently bred out of the Chinese and other Asians for many generations. History shows China did have its hackers in abundance in the past; but strict authoritarianism that brooked no license on its authority made sure people with hacker potential went down paths that got them out of the breeding pool early in life.

Besides the gene being bred out, the whole educational system does not select for hackers, it selects against them, whereas in North America at least, it selects for it albeit in a twisted sort of way.

The few tier 1 hackers China does have are involved in far more important things to the nation than reverse engineering M$ software and putting in backdoors. They have a larger number of tier 2 hackers who with enough time are able to backdoor the local distributions of linux. I expect their first attempts to be crude and clumsy, and probably remain that way for a while.

I've been involved with the transfer of software technology to Asian countries, which I'm not at liberty to talk about. They do have some good people. But they are very far and few between.

[ Parent ]
Hacker youth in Asia (none / 0) (#17)
by kmself on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 02:18:26 AM EST

Hmmm... Could I trouble the AH to maybe substantiate his or her observations? Linkds or quotes would be interesting. Less an issue of doubt than an interest in what's going on in Asia.

I've also heard from a friend of mine who's an Australian programmer with ties to the Phillipeans. His comment was that anyone with an ounce of entrepreneurial spirit in SE Asia is on a boat or plane for the US, Oz, India, or Europe. Among other things, he thinks that this may reduce the value of free software in the region -- anyone with a lick of talent is already elsewhere.

The brain-drain effects mentiond by AH are similar to those attributed to eastern Europe, particularly the former DDR (East Germany), and which some attribute to the continued depressed economy there.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Genetic determinism? (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by marlowe on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 08:48:33 AM EST

I'm willing to agree wholeheartedly with this part of what you say, but only so long as you mean "hacker gene" to be a metaphor.

As for "important things to the nation", it's clear from the news that the regime does not have the common people's best interests at heart. So to speak of "the nation" is not very helpful.

The regime is threatened by other centers of power. Microsoft is a center of power, and an aggressive one. Linux may be a power, but it hasn't got the kind of centralized control needed to be perceived as a competitor to the ruling party. So Microsoft is something to be resisted, and Linux is something to be siezed and exploited.

--- A vacant engineer rides on a train of thought that will not take him home ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Anyone with what it takes to defeat (none / 0) (#18)
by marlowe on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 08:37:23 AM EST

the trapdoors would have left China behind long ago, or else given up their ambitions in order to stay alive. Some cultures just aren't conducive to individual achievement. Confucianism and Marxist-Leninism are a bad mix.

There are a lot of smart and motivated Chinese. I run into them all the time in the U.S.

--- A vacant engineer rides on a train of thought that will not take him home ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: China inserts its own backdoors (none / 0) (#21)
by Pelorat on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 10:02:23 AM EST

Your blame is misplaced. The Chinese government is the entity that's making the lives of a billion Chinese worse, not us.

If the Chinese government started using power tools to torture and control its citizenry (who knows, they already might), would you blame Craftsman and Black&Decker for making the lives of a billion Chinese worse? Or would you blame the people subverting the true purpose of a tool for their own evil uses?

[ Parent ]

Re: China inserts its own backdoors (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 10:30:09 AM EST

Considering the apalling human rights record of the US government, large numbers of non-Americans have a great fear of US dominance. Remember that since the Communist government came to power in China the US government has killed more Asians than the Chinese government.

[ Parent ]
Re: China killed 50 million + (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 10:31:07 AM EST

"Remember that since the Communist government came to power in China the US government has killed more Asians than the Chinese government."

i make no defense of US actions in Vietnam or Korea, but the communist Chinese have been more than efficient at butchering. Chairman Mao's policies murdered more than 50 million Chinese, especially during the Great Leap Forward. Do we need to talk about forced abortions, murdered and raped tibetan nuns, prison camps producing cheap goods for the US? don't worry, very few really care in the US anyway.

Or, you may be excluding the chinese people from your calculations, and just counting the other Asian populations

alex

[ Parent ]
Re: China killed 50 million + (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 01:41:06 AM EST

On the contrary. Most of the deaths in the great leap forward were due to government bungling, not efficient butchery. The US government actions were the fully intentional, and based on a fundamental disregard for human life and suffering.

[ Parent ]
China doesn't want a monopoly... (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 12:26:24 AM EST

...yet they want everyone to use Linux? Seems fishy to me.

Re: China doesn't want a monopoly... (none / 0) (#23)
by Inoshiro on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 12:45:10 PM EST

There's a difference. It's not that they don't want a "monopoly," it's that they want to be able to examine every part of the operating system. This is just a stance of choosing software based on its origins (like Germany banning Windows 2000 for its Church of Scientology ties).

I'm sure that the Chinese fellow just said "monopoly" to distract away from the fact that they were using the source code access provided by Linux to ensure that there were no backdoors placed there by anyone (or he was misquoted in order to get the latest "tech trend" buzzwords into the story).



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
linux can never be a monopoly. (none / 0) (#24)
by error27 on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 01:02:18 PM EST

A monopoly is when one "company" has control over a market in certain goods. Linux is not a company it is a product.

And in fact there is no one company that has an overwhelming control over Linux. It is impossible for one company to ever gain overwhelming control over Linux because forking open source projects is easy.

Therefor although Linux could be any number of negative things it can never be a monopoly.



[ Parent ]
The Geopolitics of Open Source (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by Pac on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 01:18:58 PM EST

or Why my government should not be using Windows

There is a growing concern among developing countries about the security of american software. In India the government has already taken some steps in the direction of open source, and now China. I must say that I was only surprised by the amount of time it took for Chine officials to perceive the risks of using any american closed source software.

Besides the crypto export laws, there are fairly good indications that most of the american software companies will agree to do whatever NSA tells them to do (there was a highly publicized case involving IBM's Lotus Notes and the government of Sweeden). Also, it is taken for granted that any commercial or industrial information obtained by any american inteligence agency will end up in the hands of american companies, making it even harder to compete in the international markets.

In Brazil, some state governments and some representatives are already beggining to discuss this problem. Hopefully we will soon follow the suit.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


Security? (1.00 / 1) (#27)
by sallgeud on Sun Jul 09, 2000 at 11:45:29 PM EST

Shouldn't they pick a better OS for security?

Then again, they are communists and the GPL is a communist liscense, so I suppose I could see it coming. </shortRant>

I would prefer to see China convert to some form of capitalism and democracy, thus allowing everyone to make their own decisions about which OS to use. It's not the government's palce to interfere or manipulate the decisions of a business unless those actions are to directly prevent a great harm to the whole of society or to protect those who cannot otherwise protect themselves.

Just like I would like to see everyone who rides a motorcycle wearing a helmet, I would prefer they do it on their own accord. Laws to prevent Darwinism are silly. If a company wants to use MS or some variant of UNIX, that should be their choice. </bigRant> -CJK

Re: Security? (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 04:02:49 AM EST

Then again, they are communists and the GPL is a communist liscense, so I suppose I could see it coming.

Oh yeah. The GPL is there to protect the protect the original author, including companies. If you release something into the public domain, including sourcecode, don't you want to insure that if someone takes your creation and modifies it, the new code might propagate back to you?

The BSD license is BS for corporations. The GPL allows the author to make exceptions, creating a closed-source fork. So what is your point? Either a company closes its sourcecode, or makes sure anyone who uses it opens up their source to them. And if they want to make extra money, someone can pay them to grant an exception to the GPL, letting them use a closed-source fork.

Sorry for being hostile. ;) Everyone needs a good flame now & then, and I really think people are using knee-jerk thoughtpatterns. The GPL is actually quite similar to closed-source, in the people who would wish to use it. The BSD license is however something totally different.

[ Parent ]
WHY is this story going around AGAIN? (1.00 / 1) (#29)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 09:01:18 AM EST

I saw it when Arstechnica picked it up AGAIN. If you're going to play news site, at least have the TINIEST bit of journalistic integrity. This story went around months ago and was determined to be a fake. Tabloid from the trenches.

Because it's a different story, and legitimate new (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by gleef on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 11:49:08 AM EST

Did you even read the article? This is not the fake story that went around months ago. The fake news story was about China officially banning windows in some contexts and officially supporting Linux. This story is about Microsoft's PR blunders in China and the growing usage for the two biggest Chinese Linux distributions: RedFlag Linux and TurboLinux, Chinese Edition.

Personally, despite my lack of respect for the Chinese government, it is good to know that they see the value of Freedom in software.

[ Parent ]

NYTimes: China Backs Linux | 34 comments (27 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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