BEIJING China said on Tuesday its crackdown on pirated goods has made great strides, a claim borne out by government statistics but not necessarily by a trip to one of Beijing's many shops where pirated software, movies and clothes are readily available.
Marking the end of a nine-month campaign against intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement with cases worth 3.43 billion yuan ($530 million), Vice Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei said the situation had taken a turn for the better.
"You could say that there still exists some problems with China's IPR, but I don't endorse the idea that it is extremely serious," Jiang told reporters at a press conference.
Jiang said police had shutdown 12,854 illegal plants making pirated and counterfeit goods and arrested 9,031 suspects since the crackdown began in late October.
China has touted that all central government agencies are using legally purchased software as of May to show it is making progress in the battle against IPR infringement.
Jiang said he hoped they could be role models to the rest of the country as local government bodies would be required to set aside budget for legal software.
"We have the same demands for these local governments as for the central government. That is to say, they should include the money to purchase legal software into the their budget and the audit authority will also carry out audits," Jiang said.
"The government will further formulate policies and regulations on the legalization of software within the government and state-owned enterprises and gradually formulate a mechanism in this respect," Jiang added.
But some experts have argued that it is difficult to rely on government claims that all computers are running legal software without verification from an independent auditor.
The United States and other Western countries have repeatedly complained that China has not kept promises to stamp out intellectual property theft.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office in May listed China as a country with one of the worst records for preventing copyright theft for the seventh year.
Chinese piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. software and a wide range of other intellectual property cost American businesses alone an estimated $48 billion and 2.1 million jobs in 2009, the U.S. International Trade Commission said in May.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)