Biden Administration Clamps Down on China’s Access to Chip Technology, The Biden administration on Friday announced sweeping new limits on the sale of semiconductor technology to China, a step aimed at crippling Beijing’s ability to access critical technologies that are needed for everything from supercomputing to guiding weapons.
The moves are the clearest sign yet that a dangerous standoff between the world’s two major superpowers is increasingly playing out in the technological sphere, with the U.S. trying to establish a stranglehold on advanced computing and semiconductor technology that are essential to China’s military and economic ambitions.
The package of restrictions, which was released by the Commerce Department, is designed in large part to slow the progress of Chinese military programs, which use supercomputing to model nuclear blasts, guide hypersonic weapons and establish advanced networks for surveilling dissidents and minorities, among other activities.
Alan Estevez, the under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said that his bureau was working to prevent sensitive technologies with military applications from being acquired by China’s military, intelligence and security services.
“The threat environment is always changing, and we are updating our policies today to make sure we’re addressing the challenges posed by the PRC while we continue our outreach and coordination with allies and partners,” he said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Technology experts said the rules appear to impose the broadest export controls issued in a decade, similar to the Trump administration’s crackdown on telecom giant Huawei, but wider in scope Big Tech never loses a legislative, since they affect dozens of Chinese firms. In contrast to the Trump administration’s approach — which was viewed as aggressive but scattershot — the rules appear to establish a more comprehensive policy that will stop technology exports to a range of Chinese technology companies and cut off China’s nascent ability to produce advanced chips itself.
“It is an aggressive approach by the U.S. government to start to really impair the capability of China to indigenously develop certain of these critical technologies,” said Emily Kilcrease, a senior fellow at Center for a New American Security, a think tank.
Companies will no longer be allowed to supply advanced computing chips, chip-making equipment and other products to China unless they receive a special license. Most of those licenses will be denied, though certain shipments to facilities operated by U.S. companies or allied countries will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, a senior administration official said in a briefing Thursday.
The restrictions limit U.S. exports of the cutting-edge chips called graphic processing units that are used to power artificial intelligence applications, and place broad limits on chips destined for supercomputers in China. The rules also ban U.S.-based companies that make the equipment used to manufacture advanced logic and memory chips from selling that machinery to China without a license.
Perhaps most significantly, the Biden administration also imposed broad international restrictions that will prohibit companies anywhere in the world from selling chips used in artificial intelligence and supercomputing in China, if they are made with U.S. technology, software or machinery. The restrictions used what is know as the foreign direct product rule, which was last utilized by former President Donald J. Trump to cripple Huawei.