The United States is reportedly tightening rules to prevent China from obtaining advanced US technology for commercial purposes, and then diverting it to military use.
The move comes amid growing anger in Western circles at what is alleged to be China’s misinformation campaign during the Coronavirus pandemic. For example China’s foreign minister has reportedly tweeted about the possibility that the ‘US military brought the virus to Wuhan’, and an official government mouthpiece has alleged that Italy is responsible for the pandemic.
There is also anger about an alleged Chinese cover-up about the scale of the Coronavirus pandemic, with reports suggesting Chinese authorities have dramatically under reported the number of Covid-19-related deaths in that country.
Indeed, according to reports last weekend, the British government has been told the Chinese may have allegedly lied about the extent of their own outbreak by a factor of 40.
China is also being fiercely criticised for its animal markets that often sell endangered animals and domestic animals (including dogs), often in horrific conditions.
This had led some backbench MPs to call on the government to rethink its decision to allow Huawei a limited role in building the UK’s 5G network.
But now Reuters has reported that US officials are to introduce hurdles that could be used to stop Chinese companies from buying certain technologies including optical materials, radar equipment and semiconductors, from the United States.
It is fair to say that tensions between the US and China remain frosty at best, and both countries have recently engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of journalists from each country.
According to Reuters, the new restrictions are also a sign of growing nervousness within the US government over China’s “civil-military” fusion promoted by President Xi Jinping.
This has led hard-liners in the US administration to say it is time to update US rules in light of the Chinese policy, because some US shipments shipped abroad are “authorised based in large part on whether they will be used for civilian or military applications.”
Since “the Chinese have said to us, ‘anything you give to us for a commercial purpose is going to be given to the military,’ what point is there in maintaining a distinction in our export control regulations?” Reuters quoted former White House official Tim Morrison, who was involved in drawing up the changes, as saying.
It remains to be seen whether President Donald Trump would sign off on the new restrictions, which could see the US withdrawing license exceptions.
There is concern the Chinese will simply source the needed tech from non-US sources.
The White House and the Commerce Department reportedly did not respond to requests for comment.
“We urge the US to stop this purposeful slandering and look at China’s policy in an objective way and do more for the cooperation between our two sides,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reportedly told a daily briefing on Thursday, when asked about the plans for tighter restrictions.
According to Reuters, new US restrictions could see the removal of the civilian or “civ” exemption, which allows for the export of certain US technology without a license, if it is for a non-military entity and use, sources said.
Another change Reuters said, would stop China’s military from obtaining certain items without a license even if they were buying them for civilian use, such as scientific equipment uch as digital oscilloscopes, airplane engines and certain types of computers.
If these restrictions were implements, it would block certain shipments to Chinese military importers, even if they said the item would be used in a hospital, for example.
A final change would force foreign companies shipping certain American goods to China to seek approval not only from their own governments but from the US government as well.
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