China's ruling party has an order for all state offices: remove foreign hardware and software by 2023.
Over the next three years, offices of public institutions and government agencies in China have to replace foreign software and equipment. That means, no more Microsoft for public offices by 2022.
The abrupt decision of the government of China to essentially ban the usage of American software and computer equipment companies for state-funded offices moves in line with the Made in China 2025 initiative issued by Premier Li Keqiang in 2015.
Four years ago, China established an ambitious vision to move away from manufacturing cheap goods to higher-value products. It focuses on sectors like automotive, aerospace, IT, and robotics, which China has struggled to dominate in recent years.
The move to eliminate China’s dependence on tech giants like Microsoft, Dell, and HP indicates that the government will position itself to fuel most of the country’s IT-related operations with local technologies.
Last month, at the East Tech West conference in China, Alain Crozier, Microsoft’s CEO for the Greater China region, told CNBC that the main source of revenue for the company in China is helping Chinese companies expand into overseas markets.
For us, it has been even more opportunities than prior. First of all, we help Chinese companies do business abroad; this is one of the biggest streams of activity.
Hence, Microsoft does not really target Chinese consumers based in China as its priority market but rather Chinese companies that are looking to serve overseas consumers and users.
More importantly, Crozier noted that the company tries to focus on things it can control, hinting that the trade war and other geopolitical risks are unlikely to affect the firm to a large extent.
When we look at Microsoft, we try to work on what we can control. The one thing we do is to make sure that our business model and mission really help our customers achieve what they are trying to achieve with technology.
China already previously banned Windows 8 for security concerns in 2014, surprising Microsoft. At the time, a Microsoft spokesperson said that it would work proactively with government agencies to ensure their products meet the requirements.
The spokesperson stated:
We were surprised to learn about the reference to Windows 8 in this notice. Microsoft has been working proactively with the Central Government Procurement Centre and other government agencies through the evaluation process to ensure that our products and services meet all government procurement requirements.
As such, China’s concern regarding potential security issues with foreign software are not something new, and it dates back to almost five years ago.
The removal of foreign software from public offices in itself is unlikely to have any major impact on Microsoft and its business in China.
The vast majority of Huawei laptops run on Windows and beginning on November 29, Microsoft is allowed to sell software to the Chinese tech conglomerate again.
However, it could pose a long-term to the expansion of Microsoft in the growing Chinese market.
Still, with Microsoft being up more than 49% year-to-date, it will need more than this to affect its bull run.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.
Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:41 PM UTC