More on China’s Uniform Office Format (and much more)

The slides are now available for the Chinese standards/open source conference I wrote about on November 8.  The most interesting news I learned there was that China has been actively developing its own open document specification, which it calls Uniform Office  Format (UOF).  You can now see the full UOF case study presentation by WU Zhi-gang here.

The full index of presentations may be found here, and it's worth taking the time to scroll through the various slide sets.  If you do, you will see Chinese perceptions and strategies relating to open standards and open source software developed quite fully by government officials, professors and the development community.  The following excerpts, for example, are taken from a presentation by Guangnan Ni, a member of the China Academy of Engineering.  Note how the points made weave together Chinese strategies as diverse as increasing intellectual property protections for the benefit of local industry rather than simply as a concession to foreign interests, promoting the development of domestic office suites through development and adoption of open document formats, and benefiting domestic industry through the power of government purchasing:

1.  Promoting Legal Copy of the Software is Advantageous to Innovation in Software Industry

In order to promote independent innovation in the software field, China has strengthened the protection of IPR. On April 10, 2006, Chinese four Ministries jointly dispatched a request to all homemade PC manufacturers in China to pre-install legal copy operation systems. It is important to point out that, this action is not simply to reply to foreign requirements of strengthening protection of IPR.

The next basic software to eliminate piracy rapidly may be the Office Suite. Recently, in China the number of people involving in developing Office software may be only fewer than that of US. After the governmental support during the period of 10 th 5 Year Plan, many homemade Offices have realized their breakthrough, such as Evermore Office, WPS Office, Red Office, etc. They have entered the governmental market in big batches.

Obviously, promoting legal copy of software may greatly accelerate the spread of domestic Office Suite etc., and enhance the development of the software industry.

2. Correction of Undesirable Tendency in Using OSS

Up to date, there are two undesirable trends in using OSS in China: one is not to respect the open source license, violating principles of open source, paying great attention to use OSS, and making few contribution for returns; another one is to exaggerate risks of IPR of OSS, spreading the “FUD” of OSS. Both two cited trends may harm OSS, they will be disadvantageous to the development of Chinese software industry, and must be corrected.

To the first situation, it should request related companies to strictly respect license of open source in the process of applying, integrating and re-innovating OSS. All circles in China should strengthen their investment on OSS, making us “stand on a giant’s shoulders” to carry out independent innovation under an open condition, this is the contribution of OSS in China. Of course, China also should make its return to OSS, it should actively participate international community of OSS, and make its contribution to the OSS and to the advancement of the world’s software technology.

To the second situation, we should strengthen our propaganda, eliminating users’ misgiving, particularly the misgiving about patent infringement risk….  

The presentation of Gao Zhiqian is notable for the succinctness with which it presents China’s dilemma of possessing an enormous market and cheap labor, but few patents, relegating it to the status of a low-price job shop for foreign IPR owners.  He summarizes China’s position ias”Three Dependencies,” “Three Lowness,” and “Three Fewness:”

Three Dependencies:

1.  Being dependent on processing trade
2.  Being dependent on foreign-invested enterprises
3.  Being dependent on superiority of low labor cost

Three lowness:

1.  Proportion of products with independent intellectual property rights
2.  Value added of exported products is low
3.  Profit rate of exported products is low

Three fewness:

1.  Self-owned brands are few
2.  After-sales services are few
3.  Channels of independent trade are few

The weak link for China in each of these situations is absence of competitive intellectual property rights for Chinese manufacturers, and one result is a race to China’s patent office by both domestic as well as foreign inventors.  Another is an increasing number of trade disputes under the rules of the World Trade Organization between Chinese and western companies, and the rise, in the words of the presenter, of “Techno-Nationalism.” 

There’s much more to be found at this site, and I commend it to your attention.  My own less remarkable slides can be found here and here. 

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