China changes Linux tactics


Author: Chen Nan Yang

China’s Guangdong Linux Center (GDLC) and 27 universities last month set up the Guangdong Leadership of Open Source University Promotion Alliance (GDLUPA) to promote Linux in China’s universities.

The GDLUPA founded several Linux Practical Bases, which are learning centers for the university students. “The students will proliferate Linux to the whole country after their graduation,” Lo Sanlu, an official in the GDLUPA, said. He also said that the mission of the GDLUPA is to associate with the universities, promote Linux teaching and research, train new Linux programmers, and establish a university promotion system conducted by the Guangdong government.

Guangdong’s is not China’s first Linux university promotion alliance. In June, the Zhengjiang Linux Center (ZJLC) and more than 70 universities set up the country’s first Leadership Of Open Source University Promotion Alliance (LUPA), which established a new open source community, Lupaworld, three months later.

The emergence of the LUPAs and new open source communities is a response to China’s new Linux tactic. Shortly after I finished my article China’s Linux Disease, Chen Wei, the manager of the Linux Public Service Project Department (LPSPD) in China’s Ministry of Information Industry, held a serial of lectures in several universities in Beijing, admitting in public that China’s Linux industry was really “diseased.” He also said that the government was changing its Linux tactic and “inclining from Linux companies to the open source communities.”

This is a significant announcement for China’s Linux industry. At the beginning of its Linux journey, the Chinese government tried to invest directly in Linux companies, but soon gave up and turned to subsidizing the companies by governmental procurements or other indirect investment. Now the government has decided to resort to the open sources communities.

But which open source communities the government will “incline to”? Chen Wei stated clearly in his lectures that they are those communities with governmental backing. He also said that China will reward the companies that donate to or cooperate with the open source communities chosen by the government.

The Guangdong government last year invested $3.75 million to set up the GDLC to offer a free public testing platform for Linux companies and communities. The GDLC gave birth to the GDLUPA, and the GDLUPA set up a new open source community and is ready to be “inclined to” by the government.

The new agency is a target of censure by companies and communities without governmental background. “What I want to know is not where the government will incline to, but how it will incline,” said Li Jin, a programmer who is concerned about open source communities. “If it can play as a fair propeller to the market, and if the new tactic can reduce the inequities or dark businesses in the industry, or if our nongovernmental communities can get any chances to be inclined to.”

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t seem to envision this reality. Frustrated by the behavior of the government in past years, the China Software Industry Association (CSIA) published a report on its investigation of the intellectual property issues concerning open source and business software in October, which showed that the government’s partialities and inequities had disordered the software market. The report concludes that “the government should not support or intervene in business software anymore.”

The investigation was regarded as a confrontation to the government’s tactic and soon blasted by the government’s favorites. An executive of Red Flag Software said that he “suspected” that the investigation may be conducted by some business software companies who “have evil intentions” and asserted that the investigation was “spreading dread by these companies.” Ni Guang Nan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), also said that the tactic of Chinese government in software industry was “fruitful” in the past years, and criticized that the investigation “have ulterior motives.”

Chen Chong, the secretary-general of the CSIA, said that criticisms of the investigation are totally hypothetical and groundless, “But I will take the responsibility for this investigation.”

China’s new tactic no doubt can help to popularize Linux in the country, but if it continues to exclude companies and open source communities without governmental backing, the industry will still be a paradise for talentless government favourites and will not recover from its “disease.”

Chen Nan Yang is a Chinese freelance journalist and formerly an IT director in a local government’s Investment and Development Bureau.


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