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US imposes new restrictions on China’s access to its technology | technology



The increasingly intense rivalry between the United States and China is about to escalate further. In the primary area of ​​competition and where the first force still retains a clear advantage: semiconductors. Washington plans to impose new restrictions on the use of its products to prevent Beijing from using them to develop its own technology or in strategic areas such as supercomputers or next-generation weapons.

The White House may announce the measures this week, according to leaks from top officials in the US media. This is a particularly inappropriate moment for China: the Asian giant is in the middle of the National Day holiday period, and just two weeks before the Communist Party’s Five-Year Congress at which President Xi Jinping will be appointed for another five. Years, at least, out of state.

The idea, according to the leaks, is to impose restrictions on other Chinese companies similar to those imposed by the Donald Trump administration on Huawei, the Shenzhen-based tech giant, three years ago, through its so-called “Overseas Direct Product Base”. , or FDPR. This rule, which Washington also applied to Russian companies in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine, would prevent any company in the world from selling products to Chinese buyers that use certain US technologies, machines or software.

Specifically, the sale of semiconductors used in supercomputers, military equipment or artificial intelligence to develop population monitoring systems will be prohibited to Chinese companies or individuals. If the United States loses its leadership position in this area, it will “seriously jeopardize” national security and harm sectors of the country’s economy, according to a 2016 National Security Agency report, and episodes such as the missile test of a hypersonic aircraft last year show that China is already competing with the United States. And outperform them in the leading areas of military technology.

The US government’s plans will also veto supplying Chinese companies with advanced semiconductor manufacturing tools, a highly specialized sector where US companies Synopsis and Cadence – along with Germany’s Siemens (Mentor Graphics) or Dutch ASML – hold a large market share. Chinese companies will be included in Entity List A blacklist of companies that Washington imposes restrictions on the export of products.

Implementation of these restrictions has caused huge damage to Huawei, which has seen almost overnight how it has lost access to essential technology to develop its business. But at the same time, the company was also forced to develop its own alternatives: today it has its own operating system, Harmony.

This coup by the Trump administration also ended up convincing Beijing that the United States was determined to try to contain China’s growing power. It was necessary to isolate its economy and technology from dependence on foreign sources, especially on its competition. Since then, Beijing has redoubled its efforts to develop its own semiconductor industry, and its short and medium-term economic plans envisage turning the Asian giant into an innovation center, ensuring its technological independence and selling its products abroad.

Something Washington is not willing to allow. Not for China to become a source of high-tech supply to other countries, nor to use this technology in advanced weapons.

Advantage over generations

China’s progress over the years has raised some alarm bells in the United States. SMIC, one of the semiconductor giants, is already producing 7nm chips, a major achievement, despite its access to the equipment needed to make them.

The administration of President Joe Biden had already voiced his concerns. In September, he imposed new restrictions on US companies’ investments abroad, in a move planned with China in mind. In a speech last month, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan noted that “in terms of export controls, we need to reconsider the long-standing premise of maintaining ‘relative’ advantages over our competitors in some key technologies.”

This hypothesis, which predicted that only the “two generations” advantage would be preserved in its production, is no longer viable, according to the senior official. He insisted that “given the primitive nature of some technologies, such as memory chips, we must preserve the greatest advantage possible.”

If the restrictions are put in place, it will be the most severe measures yet against China’s semiconductor and superconductor industry and huge data storage banks. An area that has grown exponentially into the Asian giant, with entire regions, such as Guizhou, aspiring to customize their economy around these services.

In many cases, these supercomputers are used for innocuous purposes, from managing emergency services to tracking pandas in the wild in the Sichuan Mountains in central China. In other cases, it could be used to develop population monitoring systems: Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have denounced the use of this type of tactic in Xinjiang to control the Uyghur minority.

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