The Stack Archive

IBM permits Chinese government to review source code

Fri 16 Oct 2015

IBM has permitted China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to peruse its proprietary source code, according to sources available to the Wall Street Journal [paywalled]. Chinese media have attributed the revelation to IBM Senior Vice President Steve Mills in a speech in Beijing on Thursday, though no external confirmation has yet been established.

The WSJ sources said that IBM had struck up closer relationships with the Chinese government than similar U.S. technological companies, and on Wednesday IBM announced that it will make its Bluemix cloud-computing platform available in the Chinese market through 21Vianet Group Inc., a Chinese producer which also partners with Microsoft. Additionally IBM is the co-founder, along with China’s ministry of technology, of the China Power Technology Alliance, designed to facilitate the licensing of IBM IP to Chinese industry.

When China announced earlier this year that it would be sourcing state-approved technological purchases locally because of the rising mutual suspicion of government-created ‘backdoors’, it seemed that the technological détente could induce a trade crisis of no small order, and inspecting incoming proprietary foreign code was finally agreed as a palliative measure. But IBM is the first company to actually submit its IP for inspection in this way. The Chinese technology market is estimated to be worth $136bn in 2015.

In August a powerful consortium of western technology companies lobbied President Barack Obama urging him to seek an agreement with President Xi Jinping to ensure that protectionist legislation would not stifle free trade in the technology sector.

The IBM disclosure of source code is not necessarily the first offering in the two countries’ mutual determination to lower tension about international trade in hardware and services; Three years prior to the Snowden disclosures Microsoft agreed to share source code for Windows 7, amongst other products, with China.

Brands rejected by the new Chinese edict in February included Apple, Cisco, McAfee, Intel and Citrix – though quite clearly more than one of those technological behemoths still retain traction in the Chinese market.


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