China switches from leading tech firms to domestic products

China has dropped some of the world’s major technology brands from its state-approved purchase lists, while pushing forward locally made products, an analysis has shown.

The move was a big blow to the US network equipment maker Cisco, which had 60 products on the Central Government Procurement Centre’s  (CGPC) list in 2012 and has been reduced to zero since the end of last year, a Reuters news agency analysis has revealed.

Although the number of products on the official list has jumped by more than 2,000 over two years, the increase is mostly due to local makers. Brands such as Apple, Intel’s security software firm McAfee and server software firm Citrix Systems have been removed from the list completely.

The shift from foreign brands has been put down to a response to revelations of widespread Western cyber-surveillance, some experts say, while the other camp suggests it could be China’s attempt to shield domestic technology industry from competition.

The CGPC lists include small-scale direct purchases of technology equipment. Government bodies can only buy items not on the list as part of a competitive tender process.

Almost a half of the approved foreign tech brands that have been dropped are security-related products because, it is believed, local makers might offer more product guarantees than other rivals.

China’s shift happened around the same time that former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed surveillance programmes.

“The Snowden incident, it’s become a real concern, especially for top leaders,” Tu Xinguan, of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told the news agency. “In some sense the American government has some responsibility for that; China’s concerns have legitimacy.”

The exclusion from the state-approved lists does not prevent foreign tech giants from selling products to Chinese government, enterprise and commercial customers, but it would be through a competitive bidding process.

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