Beijing wants to level up China's software industry, with an emphasis on FOSS

Plans to build 'two or three open source communities with international influence' in the next five years

China's software industry is underperforming internationally and needs to lean into open source technology to improve, the nation's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Tuesday.

"Software is the soul of a new generation of information technology, the foundation of digital economic development, and the key support for the construction of manufacturing power, network power and digital China," according to a (machine-translated) announcement from the Ministry.

The document boasts that great strides were made in China's software industry under the the 13th five-year plan, which ran from 2016–20, but is also is critical about the state of software in China.

MIIT said China has has a fragile software supply chain, lacks depth in homegrown applications, and just doesn't value software or intellectual property.

A lack of skilled developers is a symptom and a cause of those issues.

The Ministry is also concerned about international competitiveness, and suggests deeper international exchanges and open cooperation so that China improves its software prowess to reach an equal footing with global players.

Among the plans to improve the state of homegrown software is a call to develop an "emerging field of software products with ecological influence by 2025", some of it developed in one of 20 new Chinese software parks.

China also wants to build "two or three open source communities with international influence."

The overall plan places importance on homegrown open source software, describing the trend of enterprises embracing the collaborative tech as "obvious" and admitting that "the construction of open source ecology in China is still in its infancy."

MIIT cites a lack of open source foundations, insufficient control of the underlying technology, a weak open source culture and a need for policy support as constraints to China's leadership in the FOSS field.

The document does wax lyrical about the virtues of open source software, eventually sharing the quote that "software defines the world of the future, open source determines the future of software."

China reckons its can level up. "With an average annual growth rate of more than 12 per cent, the industrial structure is more optimized and the comprehensive strength has reached a new level,” argued MIIT.

The Middle Kingdom does currently have one open source foundation: the Open Atom Open Source Foundation. It works on FOSS hardware, silicon, and content. The organisation also assists open source projects to manage their IP and prevent copyright disputes, and helps to find funding for open source efforts.

Huawei has recently donated its EulerOS - a cut of Linux - to Open Atom.

Undoubtedly in gratitude for its efforts, Huawei has been name-checked in the MIIT document – described as a "famous product" that "stands out" as its "international influence continues to grow". Huawei is the only company called out by name in the document, and there is no mention of its international influence being hindered by US sanctions.

The 14th Five-Year Plan for the Development of Software and Information Technology Services wasn't the only plan announced yesterday. The Ministry also issued a similar plan on its Big Data industry. China plans to triple the size of it s Big Data sector in the next five years, and calls for a focus on the technology required to do so while ensuring national data security. ®

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