Four out of five software programs installed on personal computers in China are stolen at a commercial value of nearly $8 billion dollars a year.
That issue will be on the table this week when President Obama’s economic team sits down in Washington with its Chinese counterparts for their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The question is: Will this year’s S&ED mark a turning point or another in a long line of opportunities that China squanders?
The US delegation is keenly aware that China has made a number of recent commitments to curb software piracy, but it has yet to deliver. The most recent commitments came in January, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited with President Obama in Washington, and last December, in ministerial sessions of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.
Among other things, China has promised to ensure that all its government agencies use properly licensed software, and it has announced pilot programs to promote the same practice in state-owned enterprises. But the software industry has yet to see progress it can measure in increased sales. So US officials are pressing for answers.
“One of our priorities is to make sure that the important commitments that President Hu made when he came to Washington in January are fulfilled,” said David Loevinger, a special representative for the S&ED from the US Treasury Department, in a briefing last week. “We have been talking a lot with our Chinese counterparts, and we’ll continue to talk about how we can turn these very important agreements into tangible results on the ground.”
This week’s sessions will be the third annual meeting of the S&ED, but the first time that software theft has been a major focus. Credit for that is due to the Obama administration, which is doing everything it can to convince China to exercise the power it has at its disposal to curb piracy. In the end, though, change will not happen through bilateral negotiation. It will happen when China shows true resolve.