《TAIPEI TIMES》 Export curbs will impede China, a US official says
A central processing unit lies on US and Chinese flags in an illustration photograph taken on Feb. 17. Photo: Reuters
CLOUD CONTROL: AI would be used to command military logistics and advanced warfare, so the US is seeking to control its use, a US commerce official said
US-led restrictions over advanced chipmaking equipment for Chinese firms would deter China’s efforts to develop an indigenous semiconductor industry, a senior US official responsible for enforcing export controls said yesterday.
Huawei Technologies Co’s （華為） recent release of a 5G phone based on an advanced 7-nanometer chip made by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp （SMIC, 中芯國際） set off a debate in Washington over the effectiveness of US attempts to curb China’s technological advancement, but US Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez said that export controls would eventually crimp the Asian nation’s capabilities to produce semiconductors.
“Those controls are also related to components of those things. Those machines will break down at some point or another, which will impede further progress” in China’s efforts to develop its own chip industry, Estevez told reporters on the sidelines of the Mount Fuji Dialogue, an annual US-Japan policy exchange platform attended by US and Japanese luminaries, in Tokyo.
The US has been working with Japan and the Netherlands on limiting China’s access to advanced chipmaking gear, and the measures include restrictions on Beijing’s attempts to secure spare parts for their existing machines.
ASML Holding NV has been shipping advanced deep ultraviolet lithography chipmaking gear to China this year, but those shipments and support would largely end next year.
Estevez did not indicate whether the US would further sanction Huawei and SMIC, but said that it is “absolutely” a concern for Washington that China could use the advanced 7-nanometer technology on military applications.
US President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled additional export control measures earlier this week to tighten China’s access to advanced semiconductors capable of training artificial intelligence （AI） models and to chipmaking gear. Washington also rolled out rules to require firms to obtain licenses to sell the chips to more than 40 countries to prevent China from obtaining them through intermediaries.
However, Washington has yet to prevent Chinese firms from utilizing overseas cloud computing services to train their AI models for military use.
Estevez acknowledged that this is an area in which his agency still has work to do.
While export controls are the right mechanism to handle certain issues, they might not necessarily be the best tool to deal with potential attempts by Chinese firms to dump lower-end chips on the global market, Estevez said.
“There are other tools for getting after dumping, countervailing duties, there’s 232, there’s 301 investigations,” he said, referring to US Acts that enable Washington to investigate and respond to unfair trade practices and imports that affect national security.
He also talked about curbing cloud access in an interview with Nikkei Asia yesterday.
“We’re looking at what the best way to control that, if we can, is, and that requires consultation with industry,” Estevez said, adding that the US government is not trying to impede industry.
Cloud-based technologies are already fairly ubiquitous, and so is AI, he said.
“The concern is ... AI in the future will probably command and control military logistics [and] military radar, [and] electronic warfare capabilities will be advanced. So we want to make sure that we’re controlling the use,” he said.
Additional reporting by staff writer