Since May of 2019, standards setting organizations (SSOs) and U.S. companies have been struggling with the blowback from the decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) to add Huawei and scores of its affiliated companies to the “Entity List” …
The long face-off between the Trump administration and Huawei involving standards development has finally been resolved. Well, yes and no, on which more below.
Initially the issue was whether standards setting organizations (“SSOs”) would be able to permit the Chinese …
Since May 16, 2019, standards setting organizations (SSOs) with Huawei or any of 68 named Huawei affiliates as a member have been in turmoil. That was the day the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce put Huawei and those affiliates (collectively, “Huawei,” for convenience) on its “Entity List,” thereby subjecting any US person or entity that exports or otherwise discloses certain non-public technical information, software and materials to Huawei to penalties under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). These penalties can potentially exceed $1 million and include imprisonment.
Yesterday, 26 SSOs, including many of the most important standards developers in the world, came together to deliver a letter to the US Department of Commerce. That letter stresses the essential role that standards play in the modern world, and requests that the Department make “a clear statement that development of open enrollment, consensus-based standards or technical specifications as conducted by consortia” is exempt from the restrictions under the EAR that have led to the concern. The full text of that letter, and the signatories, appear at the end of this blog entry, and can also be found here.
New U.S. sanctions against Huawei in the escalating U.S. – China trade war have thrown another wrench into the gears of global commerce. But how do these sanctions affect standards organizations and open source development? The high level answer is that the impact will be significant for most standards organizations, and negligible for most open source projects. The major differentiator will be the degree of transparency of the organization in question. The details, and the answer for any given organization, however are much more complicated, and the political landscape remains dynamic and subject to change.
Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?
For years now, China has annually invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing and implementing a sophisticated IT standards strategy. That strategy is intended to advance a variety of national interests, most obviously to enable Chinese manufacturers to retain a larger share of domestic market sales, and gain a larger and higher margin share of global sales. But there are other motivations at work as well, one of which ensuring that Chinese authorities can keep a close watch on the Chinese people.
The following is a position statement I contributed to an on-line forum that will launch at 11 EST today focusing on policy reform within the Chinese standardization system. You can join in that discussion here
A variety of constituencies from the West have taken it upon themselves to reach out to China to "educate" the Chinese about the existing global standards development infrastructure, and to urge them to take part in that infrastructure in the same way as do other countries. Clearly, having China, with a single national vote, participate in ISO, IEC and ITU would be best for the status quo players that have become skillful in participating in those organizations through decades of effort. It's interesting to ask, however, whether that course of action, without more, would truly be best for China and its people.
If I were a policy maker in China, the most obvious question that I would be asking would be what strategy Chinese industry should follow as regards consortia, as well as the "Big I's." To date, China has participated primarily in the latter, and in only a few of the former (e.g., OASIS and the W3C). But China has launched a number of domestic consortia open either largely, or only, to domestic companies, to develop "home grown" standards. And that seems backwards to me.
Updated: A story on a press event was posted at a Chinese site (in Chinese) on July 22. I've run it through the Babelfish translator, and you can get the gist of the story at this page. I am told by someone local that the story summarizes a high-level meeting at the EIOffice, with representatives of both SAC (the standards National Body for China) and CESI, as well as representatives from many other government agencies, all there to recognize the release of the first office suite to fully support UOF. The story also reports on various agencies that have announced that they will be converting to the new EIOffice 2009 product.
Long time followers of the ODF-OOXML story will recall that there is a third editable, XML-based document format in the race to create the documentary record of history. That contender is called UOF - for Uniform Office Format, and it has been under development in China since 2002, although I first heard and wrote about it back in November of 2006. Last summer, UOF was adopted as a Chinese National Standard, and last Friday the first complete office suite based upon UOF was released. It's called Evermore Integrated Office 2009 (EIOffice 2009 for short), and here's the story.
I'm hardly a veteran "China Watcher" in the State Department sense of these words, but I have had a Google alert in place for three or four years to snag standards-related news emerging from this most powerful of emerging economies. This has led me to read a great many articles from the Xinhua state news service over that period of time. I've also read the English version of the Peoples Daily in paper form from front to back during five visits to speak at conferences in Beijing. As a result, I've had a fair opportunity to get a feel for how the state press likes to present its news to the West, and how it makes its points, not only generally, but over the course of ongoing stories as they develop. Every now and then I see an article that really wants to make a point, and today was one of those days.
One of the topics I'm behind writing on is the state of IPR concerns and standard setting in China in general, and the current status of UOF – China's "Uniform Office Document Format" entry in the document format sweepstakes – in particular. I recently spoke at two conferences in Beijing, and got back up to speed in this regard direct from the source. Here's an update (you can find background on UOF here and here).
While ODF and OOXML continue to generate news and heat, the progress of UOF has proceeded with much less fanfare and reportage. I gave a keynote presentation called the Beijing 2007 Open Standards International Conference, and also moderated a panel on IPR and interoperability. That conference was organized by the dominant software industry standards association in China, the Changfeng Open Standards Platform Alliance, and was co-sponsored by the China National Institute of Standardization and the China Electronic Standardization Institute. Several panels were dedicated entirely or in part to open document formats.
But perhaps not. One story I've been following in China for some time is the development of China's own home-grown open document format standard, called UOF (for Unified Office Format). Now, two stories involving UOF, OOXML and ODF have appeared in the last ten days in the English language version of the state-owned Xinhua news service that provide an interesting temperature reading on the warmth of the Redmond-Beijing relationship. (You can read more about UOF here and here.)