China's blistering attacks on U.S. tech firms is more than quid pro quo over cyberspying charges. It's a signal of China's growing confidence in its own technology capabilities.
China makes its own computer chips, has the world's fastest supercomputer, and is on target to surpass the U.S. in R&D spending. It has built its own social media empire for its 600 million Internet users, keeping Facebook and Twitter on the fringes.
Lenovo, a company that claims dual headquarters in North Carolina and China, is today the largest PC maker in the world.
But China is now engaged in something of a war of words against U.S. tech firms, as it counters American criticism and more of it's activities, which include the recent indictment of five people from China on cyberspying charges.
In response, China's government is taking aim at hardware vendors and information providers such as Google. Its state run media ran a story Wednesday saying "Foreign tech firms pose threat on Internet." It'srattling Microsoft with TV spots that threaten to ban Windows 8. Chinese server maker Inspur is running an "IBM to Inspur" initiative, which according to reports, might seem like a spin from an old Sun vs. IBM server battle.
But this isn't just about cyberspying. China is picking and choosing its targets carefully.
Here are five reasons China is acting the way it is now.
1. China is asserting itself
China President Xi Jinping, a chemical engineer by training, is clearly wielding power. He took office last year.
Six months after taking office, Jinping approved an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, requiring aircraft to report flight plans, and provide other information. It is also exercising territorial rights for drilling in the South China Sea, antagonizing Vietnam in particular.
China's military capabilities are rising. It now has an aircraft carrier, and gave Chuck Hagel, the U.S. defense chief, a tour of it in April. China is working on stealth aircraft, and made that clear in a slide presented at a conference showing how its high performance computing (HPC) systems are used in its military aircraft development operations.
Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Forrester, sees China's recent posture on U.S. tech companies as part of its overall approach. China "Has become more assertive of its position in foreign policy," he said.
2. China's innovation policy pushes U.S. tech to the side
China wants to wean itself from as much foreign tech as possible. Its plan is to reduce its dependency on foreign technology from about 50% today to 30% by 2020, according to a report released last last year by the Congressional Research Service.
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