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China not dumping Win2k for Linux after all, says official

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Never let it be said that Bill Gates doesn't have pull in Beijing. This morning the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry issued a special announcement categorically denying that the Chinese government would be banning Windows 2000 and switching its systems to home-grown Red Flag Linux. This claim was made earlier this week (See story) in a report published by an official Chinese newspaper (actually, we're not sure there are many unofficial ones) quoting various unnamed Chinese officials. The denial counterblast, however, comes from some considerable heights; Zhang Qi, director of the Ministry's department of electronics and IT products, said in a statement that no such decision had been made, and that no such plans existed. So it was all a baseless rumour then? Well, according to the South China Morning Post the developers of Red Flag Linux are predicting their OS will shortly take 20 per cent of Microsoft's market in China, and they're still claiming that various government departments are keen to switch. The Register's take on the situation is approximately as follows. China does want to control its own technological destiny, and so will continue to develop indigenous software and hardware. Its rigid governmental systems mean that it can, whenever it thinks it appropriate, impose its own standards on users. It won't do this in circumstances which would result in the crippling of industry, but it will do so by degree. This of course doesn't just go for Microsoft software - it goes for every other piece of gear the Western IT companies are trying to sell into China. While this process is operating China will continue to use carrot and stick. Some of the signals in the various Chinese papers may be genuine evidence of dispute between different government agencies and departments, but others will be coded or not so coded messages that have the effect of increasing the generosity of Western exporters who keep thinking "world's biggest market" to themselves as they cut their margins. It's nice work if you can get it, but you can't - there's only room for one "world's biggest market." ®

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