The government of China is not too fond of foreign mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, so the country cooked up its own homegrown solution: A Linux-based, open-source operating system called the COS, or China Operating System.

According to People's Daily, a government-run news organization in China, COS is a joint effort between the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) and a company called Shanghai Liantong, which develops software and communication technology. According to China’s dedicated website, the COS was designed for smartphones, PCs, smart appliances and set-top boxes, and is “intended to break the foreign monopoly in the field of infrastructure software.”

At a launch event Wednesday, the head of the ISCAS took the first steps in denigrating the so-called foreign mobile “monopoly” and promoting China’s own COS. According to Engadget Chinese, the ISCAS chief “criticized iOS for being a closed ecosystem,” mentioned Android’s “infamous fragmentation problem,” and added that both Android and Windows Phone OS are “let down by poor security.” 

Many Chinese consumers are skeptical of COS in its early going. According to Quartz’ Jennifer Chiu, Chinese smartphone users took to Sina Weibo in droves to critique COS after its unveiling this week, poking fun at its name—“What does COS stand for? COPY ANOTHER SYSTEM?”—and sarcastically proposing that Communist Party “members, cadres, and leaders throw away their iPhones [first] and have them replayed by our superb homemade operating system!”

Justifiably Suspicious

Consumers have every right to be skeptical of its own government’s second attempt at a mobile operating system. That's right—second attempt.

China once tried to create its own Linux-based, open mobile ecosystem in the past, but the OPhone or OMS (Open Mobile System), fell flat after its 2009 release. The OPhone, though believed to be discontinued in 2010, is still alive today with a meager 600 available applications.

With COS, China is taking advantage of the recent NSA scandal in the U.S. to push its own product; and yet, a government-approved mobile operating system, especially in China of all places, reeks of its own backdoor exploits for governmental spying.

China, which has notably heavy restrictions against sociopolitical freedoms like access to the Internet, the right to assemble or practice religion, and even the right to bear children, has many times been accused of spying on (and censoring) its own citizens. More recently, Chinese officials have begun wiretapping each other’s bedrooms and showers out of distrust. Even China’s president was wiretapped by a member of the country’s own Communist Party. 

Before it can go mainstream, COS will need to win support from a number of local carriers and handset makers, including ZTE, Lenovo and Huawei Technologies, the largest telecom equipment maker in the world, which was also accused of cyberspying in the U.S. and criticized for its ties to the Chinese military.

Lead image (of the HTC Salsa, not COS) via Flickr user bfishadow; right images via China-COS