"The U.S. tech companies are much more concerned than they were two or three years ago," said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology policy think tank. "Most of them were looking with growing interest at the China market. Now they're much more concerned that the rug is being pulled out from under them."
The officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce visited Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, Joanna Li, a public relations officer for the company, confirmed in a phone interview, answering questions about earlier reports in the Chinese news media.
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"There was a visit from government officials to our offices," she said. "Given the sensitivity of the issue, I can't say any more."
There was no announcement about the visits on the State Administration's website, and calls to its Beijing headquarters after working hours were not answered.
The news may add to the growing anxiety among foreign corporate executives who have watched Chinese authorities take on some of the largest Western companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical giant whose employees in China have been accused of bribing doctors and hospital staff to use the company's products.
But China has used its antimonopoly law, which went into effect in 2008, with a special zeal against United States technology companies.
Last week, the state media announced that a separate regulatory body, the National Development and Reform Commission, was looking into possible antitrust violations by Qualcomm, one of the world's largest makers of the chips used in mobile devices. According to the Securities Times newspaper, the agency is investigating accusations that the company overcharged Chinese customers and abused its dominant market position.
Whether intentional or not, the announcement coincided with a visit to China last week by Qualcomm's chief executive, Steven M. Mollenkopf, who held talks with government officials and announced the creation of a $150 million "strategic venture fund" to invest in Chinese technology start-up companies.
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In May, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government has started to examine the dependence of Chinese banks on computer servers made by IBM.
In April, the United States Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew expressing concern that Chinese authorities were using their antimonopoly law "to advance industrial policies that nurture domestic enterprises, rather than the internationally accepted norm of using competition law to protect consumer welfare and competition."
Meanwhile, Chinese news media reports have named Microsoft as among the foreign technology companies likely to come under tighter government checks for security risks after the revelations by Edward J. Snowden about United States government surveillance.
"It's a combination of punishment and paranoia," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group. "The Chinese government has always been suspicious of U.S. I.T. products and is using Snowden as an excuse."
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Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA China, a consulting firm in Beijing, said Chinese investigations into American tech companies operating in China appeared to have gathered momentum after the Justice Department's decision in May to indict the Chinese People's Liberation Army on charges that it hacked into the networks of American companies, including the United States Steel Corporation.
"Previously there would be hesitation before taking on a big iconic U.S. company and the impact it might have on trade, but not anymore," he said. "The gloves are off."