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Chinese Government to “Delete America” in its Software

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A quiet yet seismic shift is underway, rooted deep within the strategic confines of Beijing’s power corridors. This transformation is encapsulated in a highly secretive mandate known as “Document 79,” a directive that signifies China’s intent to systematically excise American technological influence from its core infrastructure. The directive, veiled in utmost confidentiality, heralds an era where China aims to untangle itself from the complex web of U.S. technological dominance, a move that could have profound implications on the geopolitical and economic landscapes.

At the heart of Document 79 is a clarion call for state-owned enterprises across pivotal sectors such as finance and energy to sever their dependencies on foreign software by the year 2027. This initiative, colloquially dubbed “Delete A,” or “Delete America,” represents not just a strategic pivot but a foundational shift towards technological self-reliance and national security. The underpinnings of this directive are deeply intertwined with China’s broader ambition under the leadership of Xi Jinping to achieve self-sufficiency in critical domains ranging from semiconductors to fighter jets, and even in the provisioning of basic necessities like food and raw materials.

The promulgation of Document 79, which occurred amidst escalating tensions and trade confrontations with the United States, underscores a deliberate and concerted effort to bolster China’s indigenous technological capabilities. In the backdrop of increased U.S. sanctions and restrictions on the export of advanced semiconductors, China’s push to localize technology, known as “Xinchuang” or IT innovation, has gained new urgency. This initiative, which loosely translates to technology that is secure and trustworthy, reflects a deep-seated drive towards insulating the nation from external vulnerabilities and ensuring its technological sovereignty.

The ramifications of this sweeping directive extend far beyond the realm of government and state-owned entities. For American tech juggernauts such as Microsoft and Oracle, which have long reaped the benefits of China’s expansive economic growth, Document 79 portends a gradual erosion of their market presence in a territory once perceived as a bastion of opportunity. The narrative has shifted from one of intellectual property challenges to a stark realization that the era of unfettered access and dominance in China’s tech market may be drawing to a close. “China was the land of milk and honey, and intellectual property was the main challenge,” remarked a former U.S. Trade Representative official, reflecting on the changing landscape. “Now, there is a feeling that the sense of opportunity is off. Companies are merely hanging on.”

The transition towards indigenous technology, while fraught with challenges, has been met with a determined and strategic approach. Despite concerns over the performance and stability of domestic alternatives, state-owned firms have dutifully aligned with the directive, incrementally adopting Chinese substitutes. This commitment is bolstered by advancements in local technology, which have rendered Chinese alternatives increasingly viable and integrated within the country’s vast digital ecosystem. As these technologies evolve, their interoperability with widely used platforms like WeChat signifies a holistic integration into China’s digital fabric, further consolidating the shift towards domestic solutions.

The journey towards technological autonomy, embodied in Document 79, is emblematic of a broader paradigm shift in China’s approach to digital sovereignty. It’s a move that prioritizes security, reliability, and national integrity over the convenience and familiarity of foreign technologies. This quest for self-reliance is not merely about technological substitution but represents a profound realignment of China’s position in the global tech hierarchy.

As America decouples from China, the reverse is happening as well. This could additionally be spurred by reciprocity with the American government and taking into account the same risks. If China is attempting to bug equipment and software to be used in America, perhaps American software might be bugged to spy on China.

But in our view, anything that leads to a greater “decoupling” is a step in the right direction.

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