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Call to Back WAPI Standard

The homegrown WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) standard for wireless networking should be implemented as early as possible for reasons of security as well as industrial outlook, the Chinese Academy of Engineering's Shen Changxiang told Beijing Youth Daily.
"In order to promote its own standard, the US has manipulated the International Standardization Organization (ISO) to block a Chinese standard through application procedures," claimed Shen, also a member of the State Informatization Advisory Committee.
Implementation of WAPI as a national standard was announced last June, but encountered strong complaints from other countries. The date was postponed indefinitely after Vice Premier Wu Yi and her US counterpart reached a deal in Washington DC last April.
The Chinese delegation walked out of an ISO conference in Frankfurt in February to protest against what it said was unfair treatment after its WAPI standard application floundered.
"The WAPI standard concerns both national security and economic interests," Shen said.
There have long been worries that China's information industry relies too much on foreign countries for its core technology. Getting patents is important for the competitive ability of businesses, but industrial standards are key for the whole sector, and even to the nation, according to Shen.
Those who succeed in setting industrial standards are advantaged in taking the initiative and control of markets. In recent years, China has endeavored to develop its own and tried to get them accepted internationally.
"The implementation of a WAPI standard at a suitable time could create a good domestic and international environment for our own intellectual property standards," said Shen.
Whether to open WAPI codes or not was once the cause of much criticism from overseas. Although the Business Code Regulation neither forbid nor required it, Shen advised for them to be open if foreign countries insisted.
He also refuted the idea that the WAPI standard violated WTO principles. According to technical barrier regulations, such a standard is acceptable if it is made for reasons of national security and if there is no related international standard.
Shen said national security was indeed endangered since the former wireless LAN standard had big loopholes, so reconstruction of identity and encryption techniques was essential. Also, the use of wireless equipment in residences, offices and airports caused no connection problems with foreign countries.
Driven by a huge potential wireless LAN market, domestic communications manufacturers have already proposed relevant products, and some WLAN chips have been researched. Those of Founder, Lenovo and IWNCOMM have already passed tests and other enterprises from both China and overseas have backed the WAPI standard.
More non-WAPI products will appear on the Chinese market if no clear decision is made, Shen said, and the government would eventually be forced to accept a different standard.
In his eyes, WAPI is a touchstone for China's strategy for standard creation, and could influence the success of many other homegrown standards like digital TV and TD-SCDMA.
Its indefinite postponement has already raised doubts and worries, according to Shen, with some firms no longer venturing to invest in R&D for WAPI products for fear that it will be given up, and those already investing considering withdrawing their funds.
(China.org.cn by Tang Fuchun April 15, 2005)

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