Social media abuzz over Microsoft 'cut'
US restrictive policy pushes homegrown innovation
Published: Aug 09, 2020 09:08 PM

Photo: IC

An article citing a Microsoft statement in which the US company alleged it will not be responsible for consequences if it has to cut Windows services in China's mainland flooded social media platforms on Sunday, triggering public worries over whether the popular office software provider will be forced to cut off services in China. 

The statement, published on many influential non-official social media accounts, claimed Microsoft renewed its service contract on its website. As to its responsibilities, the contract said that for circumstances beyond Microsoft's reasonable control (for example, labor disputes, force majeure, acts of war or terrorism, malicious sabotage, accidents, or compliance with any applicable laws or government orders) that result in Microsoft's failure to perform or delay in performing its obligations, Microsoft will not assume any responsibility or obligation. 

Microsoft will use its best efforts to minimize the impact and meet its obligations, the new contract said. 

It means if the US government prohibits Microsoft from providing software for any Chinese enterprises, institutions or individuals, Microsoft is not responsible, according to the article. 

The contract also noted that these terms will be governed by the laws of the US state of Washington, whether or not there is a conflict of principles, which means if users have any questions about the services, they will have to file a lawsuit in Washington. 

The contract will take effect on October 1. 

However, research into Microsoft's users' statement in 2019 found that the company published the same content in July that year. The new statement is an annual update, which changed 14 terms, but none of them are related to cutting off services in China. 

Industry analysts reached by the Global Times on Sunday said that many companies use similar terms to comply with the laws and regulations of their home countries. 

Although the message conveyed in the articles may not be true, it comes at a time when the Trump administration has issued an executive order blocking all US deals with TikTok's Chinese parent ByteDance and Tencent, operator of Chinese messaging app WeChat.

The development comes even as Microsoft is in talks to secure a deal for TikTok US operations, and the viral post clearly shows public concerns over escalating China-US tensions.

Affected by US restrictions, Huawei's self-designed Kirin chips cannot be produced after September 15, and the company is said to run out of its own high-end chips soon. 

Many netizens worried Microsoft may withdraw from the Chinese market if the Trump administration issues another executive order, which will affect many Chinese users who have become accustomed to using its Windows series software. 

Some analysts claim that multinational companies like Microsoft will take the initiative to maneuver between governments to continue to serve the Chinese market.

The internet industry is a highly international sector, and internet firms' top interests lie in global cooperation. If the US government orders to halt Microsoft's services in China, the move first violates the principles of business and harm the interests of American firms, Qin An, head of the Beijing-based Institute of China Cyberspace Strategy, told the Global Times.

Even if this extreme situation occurs, China has backup plans, Qin said, noting that domestic operating systems may lag behind American ones, but they are usable and can guarantee the proper functioning of industries. China is now accelerating chip development amid US sanctions, Qin said.

In December 2019, the Financial Times reported that Beijing had instructed all government offices to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years. But no Chinese authorities have confirmed the report.

"The US' efforts to choke China will only stimulate us to develop faster in high-technology innovations. Chinese people have the spirit and capabilities to overcome the difficulties," Qin said, citing China's progress in the aerospace industry since the 1990s amid American suppression as an example.