Government officials visit Microsoft offices in China
The visits, from a government agency that enforces business regulations, suggested that Microsoft might be the latest multinational company to find itself in the cross hairs of Chinese authorities.
The New York Times
BEIJING — Officials from a Chinese government agency that enforces antimonopoly laws and other business regulations visited four Microsoft offices across China on Monday, the company said.
The visits suggested that Redmond-based Microsoft might be the latest multinational company to find itself in the cross hairs of Chinese authorities, who in recent months have ramped up their scrutiny of foreign companies, especially those in the tech sector.
The officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce visited Microsoft offices in four cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu — Joanna Li, a public-relations officer for the company, confirmed in a phone interview, answering questions about earlier reports in the Chinese news media.
“There was a visit from government officials to our offices,” she said. “Given the sensitivity of the issue, I can’t say anymore.”
There was no announcement about the visits on the State Administration’s website, and calls to its Beijing headquarters after working hours were not answered.
The news may add to the growing anxiety among foreign corporate executives, who have watched Chinese authorities take on some of the largest Western companies, including Google, Qualcomm and GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical giant whose employees in China have been accused of bribing doctors and hospital staff to use the company’s products.
Microsoft’s operating systems and software are widely used by Chinese businesses and government offices.
Often, those products have been bootlegged, but the company also has been the subject of citizens’ complaints that its dominance amounts to a monopoly that has allowed it to charge too much.
The Chinese news media have also named Microsoft as among the foreign technology companies likely to come under tighter government checks for security risks after the revelations by Edward Snowden about U.S. government surveillance.
“We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we’re happy to answer the government’s questions,” Li said in an email.
In addition to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce is one of three agencies that have claimed a leading role in enforcing China’s antimonopoly law, which went into effect in 2008.
In June, President Xi Jinping of China reinforced longstanding government demands that China master and control new technologies, and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign patents and suppliers.
“Only if core technologies are in our own hands can we truly hold the initiative in competition and development,” Xi told Chinese scientists and engineers.