Chinese experts on international trade argued yesterday that the government’s rule that all personal computers shipped to the country be installed with the filtering software Green Dam from July 1, does not violate WTO regulations, as claimed by US officials.
The US embassy in Beijing confirmed that US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk sent a joint letter Wednesday to their counterparts in China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) urging China to revoke the rule.
“The Green Dam mandate has raised international concern. The US government shares the concerns raised by Chinese citizens and international technology companies,” Richard Buangan, deputy information officer of the US embassy in Beijing, told the Global Times via e-mail yesterday.
Meanwhile, an official from MOFCOM who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times that they had already noted the US government’s concern over Green Dam and are now studying the matter in order to deal with US concern. The MIIT made no comment yesterday.
The US is complaining that forcing manufacturers to pre-install or supply the software would violate China’s free trade obligations under World Trade Organization rules.
“China is putting companies in an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications and network security issues,” Locke was quoted as saying by a press release of the USTR yesterday.
“Mandating technically flawed Green Dam software and denying manufacturers and consumers freedom to select filtering software is an unnecessary and unjustified means to achieve that objective (of protecting children from vulgar content), and poses a serious barrier to trade,” Kirk said.
Referring to the US’ criticisms, Shen Dayong, an expert on the WTO at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, told the Global Times that China would not encounter any trouble if the US were to file a complaint to the WTO.
Shen stressed that the software aims at protecting Chinese children from pornography and China is not violating its WTO commitments because “there are general exceptions to the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services.”
Demanding that manufacturers install Green Dam cannot be construed as violating the agreement because “it is necessary for China to protect public morals and to maintain public order,” he said.
Shen also noted that if the US does decide to file a WTO case against China after the failure of the consultation process, the case would last for several years.
Referring to Locke’s criticism of no public hearings prior to the announcement, Tang Lan, deputy director of Information and Social Research Center at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said public hearings are not held before software is pre-installed in the US.
Tang believed that the reason why the US is so sensitive about Green Dam is the fact that the software can monitor individual records.
“However, it is an exaggeration to say that one single filter software can have complete control over all computers in China,” Tang said. “I heard there is already software called Green Dam Nemesis on the market to disable Green Dam.”