MATLAB is on its deathbed

Prohibition of common software for Chinese students reveals increasing US hegemony on the Internet

On June 6, students at the Harbin Institute of Technology and Harbin Engineering University were denied access to MATLAB, a software program for numerical calculations using matrices developed by the US company MathWorks. Experts called the company's decision the most recent "collateral damage" resulting from US sanctions against China.

MATLAB, which enables matrix manipulation, drawing functions and data, implementing algorithms, creating user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages, is one of the most widely used coding software for scientists. In an email to affected students, MathWorks wrote that "due to recent US government regulations," they are prohibited from providing technical or customer support for the two institutions.

The two Chinese universities were included in the "Entity List" by the US Department of Commerce in May. This stipulates that the universities could pose a risk for the procurement of items for military end use in China. In response to this policy, MathWorks has discontinued its services for the two universities and disabled the student accounts.

“MATLAB is just software for scientific purposes. I see no reason why students like us should be prevented from using them. It seems that we can no longer use this software to publish research or share data with other scientists around the world, which will hinder global scientific collaboration, ”a Harbin Institute of Technology student told People's Daily Online below the condition of anonymity.

Qin An, head of the Beijing-based Institute of China Cyberspace Strategy, told People's Daily Online that universities had paid for MATLAB services and that the ban on common students from using common coding software only shows the growing hegemony and unfounded hostility of the country USA versus China on the Internet.

"This decision not only affects innocent Chinese students who use the software for research purposes, but it has also harmed the US company itself," said Qin.

As of 2020, MATLAB had more than 4 million users worldwide. MATLAB users come from a variety of backgrounds, most of which are engineers, scientists, and commercial companies. Most of the universities in China use the software.

“The US government has officially demolished the last fig leaf from the Statue of Liberty. A country that prides itself on freedom and is the founder of the internet is the most closed and arbitrary internet bully today. Cyberspace is now a new battlefield for the US to advance its hegemony, ”said Qin.

According to Qin, the US’s advanced technologies have enabled the country to get both financial and political benefits from a free internet. By banning the use of common coding software for Chinese students, the US government could successfully address the populist sentiment in the nation, but it would be hard hit in the long run.

“Since the Snowden incident, countries around the world have realized the importance of protecting their cyber sovereignty. The increasing US internet hegemony will only force other nations to lift US control and certainly encourage countries like China to develop their own cyber technologies, ”Qin said.

“The scientific cooperation between China and the USA will of course be severely affected by this incident. A baseless move like this is nothing more than a deathbed struggle for US hegemony and will have dire ramifications for the US itself, ”he added.

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