Is China looking to build its own secure smartphones?

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Already heralded as the world’s largest smartphone market, China’s is now taking the next step in forging its own mobile legacy. Amidst growing worldwide concerns about security (or lack thereof), China is reportedly undertaking efforts to build its very own secure smartphones, undermining American manufacturers’ positions in the booming Asian market. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Chinese smartphone maker ZTE Corp. is working on a secure smartphone for government agencies using an operating system developed in-house, and a processor chip from a Chinese supplier.” And with Alibaba in on the deal as well, this is a truly homegrown effort with some pretty massive potential.

While such a product isn’t necessarily intended for the general public (let’s face it — China’s government doesn’t have the most stellar record of upholding citizens’ privacy rights), the smartphone would be hugely beneficial for those part of the Chinese bureaucracy. The United States has thrown its fair share of accusations toward the Chinese for hacking into government and company records, and China has in turn leveled similar grievances against Americans for doing the same thing. As such, it comes as little surprise that some high ranking officials are now looking for ways to protect their information, safe guarding against prying eyes.

According to rumors of the forthcoming smartphone’s design, only the most basic of features would be included — after all, the primary purpose is security, not selling in mass quantity. Without a camera, GPS, or even extensive Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity, this almost antiquated version of a “smartphone” would make it more difficult to infiltrate, making it all the more valuable for those associated with the Chinese government. “Right now the security sector is very hot,” said Chris DeAngelis, Beijing-based general manager at consultancy Alliance Development Group. “The government is looking for non-foreign technologies as much as possible to prevent various back doors.”

Of course, turning towards domestic goods will also serve to boost the Chinese economy, whose reports of slowing growth rates has had major effects on global stock markets this year. And with more and more Chinese companies looking to buy Chinese-made goods, some foreign companies may see their own hold on the Chinese market gradually diminish. Still, the WSJ reports, China probably doesn’t have the capacity (yet) to provide all components of a smartphone from within the country.

So don’t worry, Qualcomm, it looks like you’re still safe in China … for now.

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