China unveils new computer operating system amid US tensions

AFP , Thursday 6 Jul 2023

China has launched its first homegrown open-source operating system for computers, state media said on Thursday, as Beijing seeks to reduce its foreign dependence at a time of increased rivalry with the United States.

China s first open-source desktop operating system, OpenKylin, makes debut on June 24, 2022. Photo courtesy China Electronics Corporation


The announcement of the new system came just before US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was due to land in Beijing on Thursday for meetings with Chinese officials aimed in part at stabilising relations between the world's two leading economies.

The system, called OpenKylin, has been designed as a rival to the ubiquitous Windows and MacOS systems. Previous versions of the software had already been deployed on the computers of some government departments, state media said.

OpenKylin users have access to the software's lines of code and can modify them as they wish, unlike Microsoft and Apple, which keep the workings of their Windows and MacOS systems secret.

China has long regarded that opacity as a vulnerability, one that has been reinforced in recent years by geopolitical tensions with the United States.

OpenKylin, whose name refers to a legend in Chinese mythology, is based on the popular open-source Linux operating system.

Windows is used on the vast majority of computers in China, despite Beijing's stated desire over recent decades to create its own operating system.

Authorities have in particular sought alternatives for use on high-security computers, such as those used by the army.

According to state-owned CGTN television, Chinese space programmes have already used previous versions of OpenKylin, including the Chang'e lunar and Tianwen Mars missions.

Microsoft launched a version of Windows specifically for the Chinese government in 2017, in partnership with a local joint venture, to allay security concerns.

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which is facing US sanctions, launched its HarmonyOS operating system for smartphones and tablets in 2021 after being stripped of its licence for the Google-owned Android operating system.

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