98% of Chinese smartphones run Google’s Android, and the government doesn’t like that

At odds once again?
At odds once again?
Image: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
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Does Google have too much control over China’s smartphone market? China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) thinks so. In a white paper its research arm released Friday (pdf in Chinese), it bemoaned the “heavy reliance” on Google’s Android software among Chinese smartphone developers.

“Chinese enterprises commonly use Android-based systems in their development and optimization, and although the Android system is open-source, the core technology and and technology roadmap is under the strict control of Google,” the white paper said. “China’s enterprises constantly face Google’s commercial discrimination, including the delay of timing on codesharing due to agreement restrictions.”

The paper pointed out that Android was used in 97.7% of Chinese-made smartphones—a sector that includes more than 300 enterprises—but that Chinese production lines were still small and that the sector still hadn’t put out a Chinese-designed product that could compete globally. MIIT said that the future progress of Chinese-developed systems (presumably, that are Android-based) will become even more difficult due to Google’s “industrial game-playing”—specifically, its continual refusal to partner with local developers. By contrast, the white paper praised Huawei, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and other domestic companies.

The white paper could augur impending regulation against Android, Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based technology consultancy BDA, told Reuters. ”In China, regulators regulate regularly especially where they can position the regulations as helping out domestic companies,” said Clark. ”Ironically, Android’s success has underpinned a lot of the growth in China smartphone vendors in recent years.”

As we reported in January, Android has struggled to monetize the widespread use of Android in China, as the company collects no licensing fees, and phone-makers aren’t required to include Google apps in smartphones that use Android—some 80% of Android-branded phones in China feature Chinese search engine Baidu instead of Google. This latest development may mean that will soon get even harder.