In a significant move against potential threats posed by the Chinese government, the Biden administration announced stricter restrictions on exporting advanced artificial intelligence (AI) chips and manufacturing equipment to China. The action reportedly comes as a response to growing concerns about China’s use of advanced technology for military applications, especially in fields like hypersonic missiles and AI.
The restrictions were articulated by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who conveyed the administration’s firm stance in ensuring America’s technological advancements don’t land in the wrong hands. “These controls maintain our clear focus on military applications and confront the threats to our national security posed by the People’s Republic of China Government’s military-civil fusion strategy,” Raimondo stated.
She further emphasized the need for vigilance, citing that while AI has vast potential benefits for society, it could also cause “tremendous and profound harm if in the wrong hands and in the wrong militaries.”
The US will take steps to prevent American chipmakers from selling semiconductors to China that circumvent government restrictions as part of the Biden administration's upcoming actions to block more AI chip exports https://t.co/cabhfjMvRE pic.twitter.com/SkwifKHLvl
— Reuters Business (@ReutersBiz) October 16, 2023
These newly imposed export rules are immediately needed to protect national security and to address a deeper strategic vision. The Chinese military’s unchecked access to high-end chips crucial for military leverage could pose significant challenges in maintaining a global balance of power.
Secretary Raimondo’s announcement came after she visited Beijing and Shanghai. While there, she pointedly remarked about the administration’s efforts in curbing China’s military prowess. As she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in early September, “Certainly, on my watch, we are not going to sell the most sophisticated American chip to China that they want for their military capacity.”
— The Hill (@thehill) October 17, 2023
However, the administration said that while ensuring national security remains a top priority, it isn’t targeting China’s economic growth. Raimondo clarified that these export controls “are not designed to impair China’s economic growth,” emphasizing that only a fraction of semiconductors fall under these restrictions. In fact, “The vast majority of semiconductors will remain unrestricted,” she affirmed.
This nuanced approach has naturally raised eyebrows in China. Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, rebuked the U.S. measures, accusing the nation of “politicizing and weaponizing trade and tech issues” and “destabilizing global industrial and supply chains.”
The administration has further broadened its restrictions beyond China. Companies based in or having a parent company in nearly two dozen countries under U.S. arms embargoes now require licenses to export controlled chips and their components. The intention is to prevent a backdoor entry of this technology into China through foreign subsidiaries or third parties.
While this may appear as just another development in U.S.-China relations, it could signal a broader shift in the federal government’s approach toward safeguarding America’s technological edge.