- China obsessed with self-dependent innovation.
- This is not the first tech fraud that has happened in China, nor will it be the last.
- The creator has been suspended pending further investigation.
The Institute of Computing Technology (belonging to the Chinese Academy of Science) released on January 15 a 100% self-dependent Chinese programming language, Module Unit Language (download here), also known as “Mulan,” the namesake of the upcoming Hollywood movie based on the Chinese folkelore The Ballad of Mulan.
According to its project manager, Liu Lei, Mulan is designed to develop applications related to AIoT (AI + Internet of Things). Based on Mulan, textbooks and education equipment have been distributed to schools in several provinces to help students learn programming more easily.
Over the next few days, as more Chinese coders downloaded and tested Mulan, people started to argue on Zhihu that Mulan might be a counterfeit. Several posts have revealed that Mulan is just a Python encapsulation. They used Pyinstaller Extractor to reverse Mulan and discovered the exact same files as in Python version 3.7.
On January 19, the institute urgently posted another announcement stating that they have verified that Mulan is based on Python, not totally self-developed as claimed before. Also, this time they emphasized that Mulan is a product from a company owned by an employee of the Institute, Liu Lei.
Funny how just a few days ago they seemed to forget to add this information when announcing the release of Mulan. As the person responsible, Liu has been suspended pending further investigation.
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This is not the first time that something like this has happened in China, nor will it be the last. In 2003, Shanghai announced Hanxin 1, the first digital signal processing (DSP) microchip fully developed in China. Over the next few years, Hanxin received more than $160 million in Chinese government funds.
However, in 2006, an anonymous post revealed that Hanxin 1 was actually a DSP microchip designed by Motorola. The creator of Hanxin 1, Chen Jin, bought a batch of Motorola microchips and changed the logo on the microchips. Even so, Chen was not condemned. He is still actively works in the microchip industry in China.
Another similar case is Hongxin, allegedly the first self-developed Chinese web browser kernel, thus making it the fifth web browser kernel in the world (the others are Trident by Microsoft IE, Blink in Chrome, Webkit in Safari and Gecko in Firefox). However, again, Hongxin turned out to be based on Chrome. Many coders mocked that Hongxin was basically just Chrome with a different logo.
After years of being mocked for a lack of innovation, China seems to be obsessed with self-dependent products, trying to change “Made in China” to “Created in China.” Despite it being a promising strategy as China goes through industrial transformation and upgrading, it might be hard to achieve if everyone is focused on quick success.