* China Admits They Are Not Fully Prepared for Y2K * -

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Tuesday December 14 1:24 AM ET

China Not Fully Prepared for Y2K

By CHARLES HUTZLER Associated Press Writer

BEIJING (AP) - Not fully prepared for Y2K, China is accepting that there will be some year-end computer failures, including the risk of office towers shutting down, hospitals doing without advanced surgical equipment and parts of the countryside going black.

China didn't begin work on the Year 2000 computer bug in earnest until 13 months ago. So it had no choice but to resort to computer-system triage, focusing money and manpower on critical government agencies, major cities and industries while leaving the rest to fend for themselves.

Officially, the strategy has paid off.

The government has said there will be no major disruptions as China passes into the new year. Chinese and foreign economists claim that any glitches - which are likely to be felt through the first three months of 2000 - won't harm the economy.

``China is better prepared than many other countries in the region,'' said Austin Hu of the World Bank, which gave Beijing two $100,000 grants to work on preparing for Y2K.

But behind the optimism lies much unease and uncertainty.

In a country as vast as China, even the government's top Y2K troubleshooter, Zhang Qi, admits she is not sure how smaller cities are faring, and many businesses have remained blase despite official pleading to take the threat seriously.

Y2K problems mainly afflict older computers and the microchips running many machines that use only two digits to record the year. By mistaking the ``00'' in 2000 for 1900, many computers could crash or garble crucial data.

China is a latecomer to the Information Age so most of its computers are less than 5-years-old.

Only the banking and aviation sectors run the large-scale mainframe computer networks most susceptible to Y2K problems, said Guo Liang, an Internet expert at the government-run China Academy of Social Sciences.

While a relative rarity in a largely rural country where abacuses are often used to check calculators' results, computers run many essential services - and Y2K-related problems have already occurred.

The Public Security Ministry, the national police force, had to destroy thousands of passports it printed in January because their five-year expiration dates read 1904, not 2004, a government website said.

In the national banking system, computers that passed a nationwide test of the switchover from Dec. 31-Jan. 1 failed when the clocks were moved ahead to check for problems on next year's Leap Day, Feb. 29, the central bank reported.

Similar problems cropped up in Beijing - hotels couldn't make bookings for next year and property leases printed up incorrectly, said Chen Xinxiang, a troubleshooter for the capital's Y2K task force.

In keeping with the country's make-do approach, hospitals in Beijing were ordered to inspect all equipment and mark those suspected of having Y2K problems with a red tag. That equipment may not be used over the sensitive New Year's period and again in late February, Chen said.

``This was done in major hospitals, but we cannot vouch for smaller ones,'' Chen said. He added that while planned surgeries may be affected, emergency rooms have been ordered to make sure all equipment and back-up generators are Y2K-safe.

Specialists in the sectors the government deemed critical rewrote computer codes and rechecked the results, the government has said.

The national banking system, with deposits worth $1.2 trillion at stake, has been declared a national model of preparedness but has ordered paper records be kept as a back-up.

The civil aviation administration ran drills using short-wave radios to contact airplanes in case communications systems at major airports and air traffic control centers fail.

Testing outside those sectors, for example in the postal service, has been less careful, experts familiar with the government's efforts said.

Foreign firms have also complained that the government's unwillingness to release information has hampered their efforts to prepare.

``The government has never published what it should have,'' said Ray Yang of IT United, which provides computer network services to businesses in China.

Beijing and Shanghai only this month began verbally assuring embassies and foreign firms that supplies of electricity, water and gas will not be disrupted.

IT United asked 18 banks, insurers and electricity, water, gas and phone companies for written guarantees, but Yang said all refused.

``We believe a written guarantee would be a legal one, and we have to leave ourselves some space,'' said Zhang Xiaolu, director-general of the State Power Corporation of China.

URL: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/19991214/wl/y2k_china_1.html


-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), December 14, 1999


China is a latecomer to the Information Age so most of its computers are less than 5-years-old.

Yeah, Right.

-- Jim (x@x.x), December 14, 1999.

And what about all the pirated software that can't be upgraded?

-- fatanddumb (fatdumb@nd.happy), December 14, 1999.

How GENEROUS! TWO $100,000 grants will save the day for China! How much is that in renminbi's?? That's not even enough to remediate one major office building of PC's loaded with MICROSCHLOCK.

Guess the rural peasants will be blacked out at the expense of the big, IMPORTANT cities--now where does that sound familiar?

-- profit of doom (doom@helltopay.ca), December 14, 1999.

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