China to view Windows code

Microsoft signs a pact to reveal the Windows source code, making China one of the first to benefit from the company's program to allay security fears of governments.

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Microsoft on Friday signed a pact with the Chinese government to reveal the Windows source code, making China among the first to benefit from its program to allay the security fears of governments.

In addition, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates hinted that China will be privy to all, not just part, of the source code the government wishes to inspect.

The Chinese government and military have previously stated their preference for the rival Linux operating system because its source code is publicly available.

Without knowing the inner workings of an operating system--a fact revealed by its source code--governments like China fear that backdoors may be installed to leak sensitive information.

The China Information Technology Security Certification Center signed an agreement to participate in Microsoft's Government Security Program (GSP).

Wu Shizhong, director of the center, reaffirmed that IT security is a key issue for the government.

"Microsoft's GSP provides us with the controlled access to source code and technical information in an appropriate way. It also establishes cooperation between China and Microsoft. Microsoft has taken a step forward to let us understand its product security," he said.

Gates, who was on a two-day visit to Beijing, said his company was pleased with the pact. "We are committed to providing the Chinese government with information that will help them deploy and maintain secure computing infrastructures. We see this agreement as a significant step forward in Microsoft's relations with the Chinese government," Gates said.

In January, Microsoft announced its GSP, under which it will share the source code underlying its Windows operating system with several international governments, a move designed to address concerns about the security of the OS.

Last month, it announced GSP agreements with Russia, NATO and the United Kingdom. Microsoft is in discussions with more than 30 countries, territories and organizations regarding the program.

During Gates' visit, he also met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Jiang said China welcomes Microsoft and other global companies to invest in China and create growth.

Gates briefed Jiang about Microsoft's investment in China and gave an update on how it was sharing the source code of computer software. No details were given on what specific software would be part of the information-sharing deal.

In order to develop its software industry and maintain security, China has produced its own version of Linux, Red Flag Linux, as well as its own office productivity suite, RedOffice, which go head-to-head with Microsoft's Windows and Office packages.

ZDNet China's Ken Gao reported from Beijing. CNETAsia staff also contributed.