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Chinese Nonprofit Allegedly Coordinating Tech Firms for Military-Related Open-Source Software

According to a report from the Jamestown Foundation, a US-based defense policy group, a Chinese nonprofit organization with ties to the government is purportedly organizing efforts among major tech firms in China to develop open-source software with potential military applications. The OpenAtom Foundation oversees the development of open-source operating systems, including OpenHarmony, a variant of Huawei’s Harmony OS created after the company faced US sanctions.

OpenAtom’s initiatives go beyond civilian use, with endeavors to create alternatives to US technologies for defense purposes, such as satellite systems. The foundation spearheaded the adaptation of OpenHarmony for Chinese satellites, launched the previous year, capable of capturing high-resolution images at a low cost.

Sunny Cheung from the Jamestown Foundation highlights OpenAtom’s critical role in China’s strategy for technological self-reliance, noting that many of its leaders have ties to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and a significant portion of its staff are affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party. However, China’s foreign ministry declined to comment on these allegations.

While most of OpenAtom’s sponsors are Chinese firms like Alibaba and Tencent, US chipmaker Intel is also involved. Intel stressed its commitment to fostering an open ecosystem strategy globally. The Jamestown Foundation suggests that the US should consider promoting its own open-source software initiatives to prevent China from gaining an advantage in this domain, which has largely been left to the private sector until now.

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