China give Blackberry maker, and free market, a raspberry |

China give Blackberry maker, and free market, a raspberry

NEW YORK ” The BlackBerry e-mail device is coming to China in the next few months. By then, thousands of Chinese may already be checking their e-mail on the new “Redberry.”

The Redberry is not a new version of the BlackBerry that’s been designed by Research in Motion Ltd. for the Chinese market. It’s the name being used by two unaffiliated Chinese companies selling a BlackBerry-like service on a non-BlackBerry mobile device.

And it’s yet another example of how the Chinese market is still more like the Wild West than Western-style capitalism, regardless of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s efforts to paint a more progressive economic picture during last week’s visit to the U.S.

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The ploy of exploiting BlackBerry’s brand recognition is all the more bizarre ” RIM’s chief executive called it “weird” in an interview ” because of the two companies involved. One, not so surprisingly, is a pugnacious start-up. But the other is China Unicom Ltd., whose majority owner is none other than the Chinese government.

There are only two big cell phone companies serving China, both of them state-controlled but publicly traded. China Unicom is the wireless carrier offering “Uni PushMail,” the new BlackBerry-like mobile e-mail service. The other carrier, China Mobile Ltd., just happens to be RIM’s partner in bringing the BlackBerry to China.

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