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Red flag flying over LinuxWorld Expo

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It may have been the worst conference presentation I've ever seen. Behind it, however, was one of the most compelling trends in the IT industry today.

In a conference room tucked away on the second floor of San Francisco's Moscone West convention center, a scant handful of reporters had gathered at LinuxWorld Expo 2005 to hear a sales pitch. But this wasn't your everyday vendor briefing. Doing the selling was a consortium of Chinese software companies called the Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center (BSIPC), there to promote Beijing as not merely the capital of China but also "Asia's Linux Capital."

The emergence of China as a global economic power has been one of the key trends of this century. Relaxed economic and regulatory conditions have opened U.S. markets to Chinese companies in ways previously unthinkable. In manufacturing, China is already an unstoppable juggernaut. Little wonder, then, that Chinese companies would now be looking for ways to provide goods and services higher up the value chain.

Sure enough, the BSIPC delegation opened its press conference with a 15-minute video presentation that did its earnest best to paint Beijing as Bangalore North and then some. Skyscrapers leapt to the clouds, models strutted the runways, neon lights blazed above the bustle of cars and people as they moved the wheels of industry. And, of course, computers were everywhere. Chinese teens, we were told, now enjoy Internet cafés "more than almost any other entertainment."

Looking past the razzle-dazzle, however, the BSIPC offered some provocative figures. Beijing is now home to some 150,000 software development facilities, serving about 5,500 software and IT service industry companies. In 2004, software development was a $6.4 billion industry in Beijing, the result of an annual growth of roughly 30 percent since the year 2000. Exports currently account for $227 million of that figure.

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