China has reacted to reports about widespread Western cybersurveillance: it has dropped leading technology brands such as Cisco, Apple, Intel, McAfee, and Citrix Systems from its approved state purchase list, reports Reuters based on official data published in late 2014.
At the same time, the state has approved thousands of locally made products, the newspaper highlights: the number of items on the list jumped by more than 2,000 in two years to almost 5,000, but the increase is almost entirely due to local manufacturers. Foreign tech brands have been cut by a third.
Interestingly, the Reuters report comes eight months after Bloomberg wrongly reported that Apple’s MacBooks and iPads had been cut from the government-approved list due to security reasons.
The Reuters report cites cybersecurity as a significant irritant in US-China ties: just last month, US tech groups complained to the Chinese administration about new cybersecurity regulations.
An official at the procurement agency said there were many reasons why local makers might be preferred, including sheer weight of numbers and the fact that domestic security technology firms offered more product guarantees than overseas rivals.
“The Snowden incident, it’s become a real concern, especially for top leaders,” said Tu Xinquan, Associate Director of the China Institute of WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. “In some sense the American government has some responsibility for that; (China’s) concerns have some legitimacy.”
Industry insiders, however, see the changes in the government procurement list as a wider strategic goal to help local tech firms get a bigger share of the country’s information and communications technology market, saying the “post-Snowden security concerns were a pretext.”
It remains to be seen whether the Chinese government will step up, like it did last year following the Bloomberg report, and refute the Reuters claims.