CNETAsia staff reports from Singapore:

The Chinese government has set up a lab to study Microsoft Windows source code.

The Source Code Browsing Lab–set up in Beijing last week–is part of an existing government-run software site, the China Testing and Certification Center for Information Security Products, according a report in the People’s Daily newspaper.

Microsoft is the first commercial software company to have signed an agreement for the browsing of its operating system source code with the Chinese government, said the report, which hinted that the lab is also open to other commercial software companies that wish to have their products certified for security.

The report stressed the need for checking Windows source code for security loopholes, especially in light of recent attacks. PCs running Windows software were recently the target of high-profile attacks by the Slammer and MSBlast viruses.

However, previous reports have said that the search for backdoors installed by national intelligence agencies is also among the aims of the agreement.

China–potentially a huge market for Microsoft, once the problem of software piracy is solved–has seen wholehearted government support for open-source operating systems such as Linux. In response, Microsoft has drawn up policies to develop closer ties with officials and to open up its Windows source code for inspection.

In February, the government-run China Information Technology Security Certification Center (CNITSEC) signed an agreement with Microsoft to participate in Microsoft’s Government Security Program (GSP).

Under the GSP plan, Microsoft will share the source code underlying its Windows operating system with several international governments, a move designed to address concerns about the security of the operating system.

Microsoft has announced GSP agreements with Russia, NATO and the United Kingdom. The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker is in discussions with more than 30 countries, territories and organizations regarding their interest in the program.