China Releases Open Source Operating System

First home grown open source operating system released by China, amid escalating trade war with the US and the West

China has released its first home grown open-source desktop operating system, named OpenKylin, state media has reportedly said.

Reuters reported that the new operating system comes as Beijing steps up internal efforts to cut reliance on US technology.

Earlier this week China retaliated against Western restrictions on chips and chip making equipment, by announcing that gallium and germanium would be subject to export restrictions to “safeguard national security and interests”.

America US China - Shutterstock © Aquir

Trade war

Gallium nitride is widely used in 5G base stations, military radar systems and increasingly in electric vehicle chargers, while gallium arsenide is used in wireless communications and lasers.

Germanium meanwhile is widely used in fibre-optic cables, solar panels and LEDs, as well as military thermal imaging cameras.

Now according to the Reuters report, citing state media, the open source OpenKylin desktop operating system was released on Wednesday, and is based on the existing open-source Linux operating system.

China’s version was reportedly built by a community of about 4,000 developers, and is used in its space programme and industries such as finance and energy, state media reportedly said.

China’s market for operating systems was worth 15.5 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) last year, state media said, citing an industry report.

Developing an operating system independent of US technology has been an important goal for Beijing in recent years, with many companies and organisations having contributed to the development of the OpenKylin system, Reuters reported.

Its most notable backer is the China Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team under the purview of the industry and information technology ministry.

More than a dozen Chinese companies are reportedly trying to develop operating systems that could replace Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s MacOS operating systems.

One such company, UnionTech Software Technology Co Ltd, has been developing what it calls the “Unity operating system” Reuters noted.

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft has been one of the few Western firms still providing a customised version of its operating system to China.

Redmond has previously declined to disclose how Windows 10 was modified for the Chinese market, after Chinese concerns of possible backdoors in western tech that would allow foreign surveillance.

In 2014 for example, Microsoft angrily denied Chinese claims that the Windows 8 OS had a backdoor for NSA surveillance, after the Chinese government’s decision to ban the use of the Windows 8 operating system on governmental computers.

Since 2015 the Chinese government has demanded access to the source code of operating systems working in sensitive locations.

China has been developing its own software for a while now. For example in 2013 it was revealed that Chinese government was seeking to create a new operating system based on Canonical’s Ubuntu.

China has also previously sought to develop China OS, an independent operating system intended to compete with the likes of Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows.