U.S. War on Chinese Hardware and Software

The U.S. war on China goes beyond Chinese hardware to now include its software.

  • While the restrictions on full software are an issue, the actual problem arises in the open-source components used to build software.
  • Chinese developers accounted for about 10% of the developers on Github in 2021.
  • On one hand, companies want to partake in revolutionizing tech. On the other hand, they fear penalties for using time-saving components for their software.

Can we afford slowing down technological advancements?

The U.S. is not a fan of Chinese technology operating on its soil as it “strongly believes” that that could open it up to Chinese surveillance. And to drive that point home, late last year, the Biden administration imposed a set of export controls restricting advanced computer chip sales to China. But the war on Chinese tech goes beyond hardware to now include software. Case in point: the TikTok ban. And this battle with Chinese software runs deep, as it also covers the basic components of the software as well.

The Building Blocks

Developing certain pieces of software is tedious and time-consuming. As a result, developers rely on what is unofficially called a global software supply chain when building their products. And as useful as that is, it does introduce certain vulnerabilities that have been previously exploited. And these attacks are very lucrative for cybercriminals.

Attackers started utilizing the Log4j vulnerability in the wild in December 2021, for instance, after the Apache Software Foundation released a security advisory addressing a remote code execution vulnerability. As a result, government cybersecurity institutions worldwide issued alerts urging organizations to patch the vulnerability.  

China’s Role

China’s impact on software development is increasing at an impressive pace, triggering alarm bells for every major player across the board. 98% of international organizations regularly use open-source software, according to the Linux Foundation. Chinese users made up 10% of the +100 million developers on GitHub in 2021, making them the second-largest contributors behind Americans, who make up 19% of the platform’s users.

The Aftermath

The fear of relying on Chinese software is prominent in most countries with significant contributions to technology and its development. As a result, many governments have issued restrictions on using Chinese-originated software components. This situation means that with an app relying on 15,000 software components, a business’s ability to deliver a stable service depends on avoiding the use of software viewed as potentially problematic by its respective government.

This is where things get sticky. The limits on Chinese-related software usage could and most probably will hinder progress in technology and tech-reliant sectors such as the different fields of biology.

Final Thoughts

The validity of the claims regarding Chinese surveillance does not matter. What really matters is that one of the most influential countries in the world “strongly believes” that introducing Chinese hardware and software, regardless of how small it is, means opening its back door for data leaks and spying is enough to have the rest of the world riled up and in arms about it. But at the end of the day, what we need to consider is the possibility of slowing down key advancements in several sectors. Can we afford it?

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