BEIJING – An international dispute over a wireless computing standard took a bitter turn this past week with the Chinese delegation walking out of a global meeting to discuss the technology.
The delegation's walkout from Wednesday's opening of a two-day meeting in the Czech Republic escalated an already rancorous struggle by China to gain international acceptance for its homegrown encryption technology known as WAPI.
It follows Chinese accusations that a U.S.-based standards body used underhanded tactics to prevent global approval of WAPI.
"In this extremely unfair atmosphere, it is meaningless for the Chinese delegation to continue attending the meeting," the Standardization Administration of China delegation said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The U.S.-based group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, denies any impropriety and says China isn't playing by the established rules.
At stake is a leg-up in technology research and billions of dollars in licensing fees and component sales for laptops, mobile phones, handheld computers and other wireless devices that connect to wireless networks around the world, including hotels, coffee shops and universities.
These gadgets run on networks based on the IEEE's 802.11 standards. The original standards, however, have security holes that allow digital snoops to steal data from those who are logged on to the networks.
Members of the IEEE, an open international professional organization, and a Chinese government-backed group of engineers with military backgrounds, have developed competing technologies to plug the security holes: for China, WAPI, for the IEEE, 802.11i.
China had earlier tried to compel Intel and other tech companies to adopt its WAPI standard domestically, leading to a showdown with Washington that ended with Beijing backing down last year.
But the push for the Chinese standard persisted and Beijing decided to follow Washington's advice and put the Chinese standard before the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, a world body made up of representatives from national standardization groups.
In March, delegates representing standard bodies from 25 countries voted in favor of the IEEE's version over WAPI.
China appealed the ISO decision and demanded an apology from the IEEE which it accused of "dirty tricks" in lobbying for its standard, Xinhua said.
The Standardization Administration of China, in a statement, accused backers of the American technology of "a lot of dirty tricks including deception, misinformation, confusion and reckless charging to lobby against WAPI," Xinhua reported.
The Standardization Administration of China declined requests for comment.
The ISO organized the Czech Republic meeting as a follow-up. ISO spokesman Roger Frost on Thursday refused to comment on the Chinese delegation's walkout.
The IEEE has called on China to return to the talks and offered to work with the country on harmonizing the WAPI technology with international standards.
Steve Mills, the chairman of the IEEE Standards Association Standards Board, said in a statement, China "has lost another valuable opportunity to constructively discuss the technical merits of the two security amendments." Instead, Mills said, China continued "to focus its attention on complaints about the balloting process."