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Google’s threat to quit China this month over hacking and US criticism of China’s internet censorship has irritated ties between the two economic giants, already hurt by disagreements over currency exchange, trade and US arms sales to Taiwan.
In soothing words for investors, a Chinese official said Beijing would not seek to stand in the way of Google’s Android mobile phone platform in the Chinese market.
The spokesman for China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Zhu Hongren, was responding to a question about whether use of the Android application in China would be affected by the internet giant’s complaints against China.
“I think there should be no limit on the use of any system as long as it complies with regulations in China, it has sound negotiations and co-operation with telecom operators and obeys relevant rules and requirement,” said Zhu.
“The Chinese telecommunication market is an open market.”
The ministry oversees China’s mobile telephone sector. Zhu’s remarks appeared to underscore that the Chinese Government does not want to scare investors by directly attacking Google, and is instead directing its anger at the US Government, which newspapers have accused of “politicising” the dispute.
Two weeks ago, Google threatened to shut its Google.cn portal and pull back from China, citing problems of censorship and a hacking attack from within the country.
The Obama administration backed Google’s criticisms. Last Thursday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China to drop internet censorship and investigate the hacking.
US business groups have fired their own broadside at China, calling on top US officials to pressure Beijing on moves to keep out foreign high-tech companies.
The appeal, in a letter to top US officials, including Clinton, comes as China formulates regulations for policies meant to encourage domestic industry to ascend the value chain.
Foreign industry fears that incentives for government purchasers to prioritise domestically developed products could lose them valuable contracts.
“For several years, the Chinese Government has been implementing indigenous innovation policies aimed at carving out markets for national champions and increasing the locally owned and developed intellectual property of innovative products,” the business groups said, according to a text made public by the Business Software alliance.
“We are increasingly alarmed by the means China is using to achieve these goals.”
Signatories urged the Obama administration to make the issue a top priority and work with the business community and foreign governments to develop a “strong, fully co-ordinated response to the Chinese government”.
A showdown between Google and the Chinese Government could possibly hurt mobile phone makers who had bet on the Android system to increase sales in the world’s biggest mobile market.
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