Regulatory intelligence for US exporters

Read Mandarin Versions of Chinese Customer Websites, US Officials Say

U.S. government officials at the Bureau of Industry and Security’s annual conference last week underscored the value of Mandarin-language skills when conducting due diligence on potential Chinese customers.

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A Commerce Department official, speaking on background as part of a policy for certain career personnel at the conference, said the agency has noticed a significant difference in the English and Mandarin version websites of Chinese technology companies. An English version may often highlight the “civilian uses” of their products, the official said, while the Mandarin version, “not surprisingly,” may show how their products have uses for militaries.

“Frankly, I would say that's probably the single most important thing to do, particularly if it's a new potential foreign customer, is deploy the resources necessary to be able to look at Mandarin language sources on the company's website and other sources,” the official said. “That will give you a truer picture of how much of a risk they present.”

Another government official cautioned exporters that any shipment of a controlled U.S. technology, especially semiconductors, can be diverted from a seemingly commercial Chinese company to the country’s military. “It doesn't matter what China says about what the semiconductors are for,” the official said. “That's sort of the heart of their military civil fusion strategy, that they've erased that line between the military and the commercial applications, and that anything that their systems get can be transferred from one to the other.”

A U.S. exporter “may think” its item will be used for a “commercial application, and it might,” the official said. “But the Chinese government retains that ability to pull it and put it towards one of the military programs. That's what we're worried about.”