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Chinese computers create controversy

Chinese computers create controversy

We have a Lenovo J105 desktop PC in CNET Labs, so the company was at the top of our mind when we were flipping through the New York Times business section and saw a story headlined, "State Department Is Criticized for Purchasing Chinese PCs."

You may recall that back in 2004, a Chinese company called Lenovo purchased control of IBM's PC-making business for $1.25 billion. The company is a publicly traded one, but its stock is controlled through a holding company by the Chinese-government-affiliated Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This so far has made very little difference to us, as the company continued to send us systems with the familiar IBM ThinkCentre branding, only recently emphasizing the Lenovo brand name.

But now the U.S. State Department is purchasing 15,000 Lenovo desktops through retailer CDW, and some are saying the deal could be a security risk. The systems will be built in plants in North Carolina and Mexico, but the Times quotes a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (a group created by Congress to monitor "the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China") as saying, "The opportunities for intelligence gains by the Chinese are phenomenal."

So far, the State Department is standing behind the deal, but the Times reports that critics are pressing the issue, likening it to the recent flare-up over plans, now dropped, for a Dubai-owned company to operate American ports.