Baidu's Japanese IME webpage. (Internet photo)
Major news websites in China reported on Dec. 26 that the Japanese government has imposed a ban on the use of Baidu's Japanese input software, Baidu IME, among others.
Citing the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun, it was claimed that certain Japanese input software could lead to security leaks as it makes use of information sent about its users to its servers. But the real reasons may not be that simple.
Financial newswire Bloomberg reported that Japanese intelligence authorities have asked government institutions and universities not to use Baidu's Japanese input software, Microsoft's input method editor or Google's language input tools while handling sensitive documents.
The ban has been imposed out of fear of a possible loss of confidentiality, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
According to tech.sina.com, Baidu, Google and Microsoft use cloud computing technology supported by servers. The best advantage of the cloud input method is its convenience and accuracy, as well as compensating for insufficient storage and computing ability on mobile phones.
Cloud-based input method is an advanced and mature technology. Almost all input method suppliers in China have adopted cloud servers and cloud input tools and no cases of invasion of privacy have been reported.
The actual reasoning behind the ban could be attributed to the Japanese government trying to protect its local operators, which have lagged behind in the technology.
Relations between China and Japan continue to be tense due to territorial disputes in the East China Sea, most notably over the contested Diaoyutai islands (known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China). The Japanese government has become more conservative and would naturally want to prevent the use of Chinese products that are more advanced than their counterparts in Japan.
China and the United States play leading roles in the internet sector through companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook in the United States and Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent in China.
In a report that ranked the market value of global internet firms, five US companies and three Chinese firms figured among the top eight on the list, with no Japanese companies making the cut.
Japan is facing mounting challenges in the internet services domain. Tokyo's move to ban cloud input methods may protect local Japanese internet firms but will only weaken their competitiveness in the long run.