US Officials To Visit Taiwan To ‘Explain’ China Chip Controls

US officials are planning to visit Taiwan to explain the details of new export controls aimed at preventing advanced semiconductors from reaching China, the island country’s economy minister said on Monday.

The planned visit underscores the complexity and sensitivity of the latest curbs, announced in October, at a time when Taiwan is preparing for presidential elections that could prompt a further spike in tensions between China and the US.

Taiwan economy minister Wang Mei-hua some details of the new rules needed explanation.

“We think that them [the US] coming to Taiwan, to explain things to companies, getting a face-to-face understanding of the thinking of US enforcement agencies, having on-site communication on the details, is something Taiwan needs,” she told a press conference.

Image credit: Unsplash

Official visit

The concentration of chip manufacturing in Taiwan means it is “advantageous” for Taiwanese companies to hear the details of the new controls directly from US officials, Wang said.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said unnamed US officials would visit Taiwan in January and would hold events in the chip manufacturing hubs of Hsinchu and Tainan.

The latest round of US restrictions includes further bans on high-end artificial intelligence (AI) chips from companies such as Nvidia, after Nvidia, Intel and others developed AI chips for the China market that performed below the limit set by previous sanctions last year.

Some 90 percent of the world’s  advanced semiconductors are manufactured in Taiwan, an island 100 miles off the coast of mainland China that was founded in 1949 by the losing side in China’s civil war, and which the mainland continues to claim as a renegade province.

Chip tensions

The island is home to the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), as well as many other major chip firms that produce products based on designs from firms such as Nvidia, Apple and Broadcom.

Taiwan is set to hold presidential elections on 13 January and some analysts expect increased Chinese military activity in the Taiwan Straits ahead of those elections.

The US is also set to hold presidential elections next year and ahead of that contest the administration has been emphasising its animosity and tech competition with China, with US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo on Saturday telling a conference China was the “biggest threat we’ve ever had”.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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