US Commerce Chief: China ‘Not Our Friend’

US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo defends latest round of tech export controls against ‘biggest threat’ as China promises to sidestep curbs

US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo has called for a larger budget for her department’s key role in enforcing technology export restrictions on China, which she called the “biggest threat” in US history.

China is the “biggest threat we’ve ever had”, she told the Reagan Defence Forum conference in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday.

“China is not our friend,” she added.

Raimondo defended the department’s latest round of export controls aimed at China introduced in October, saying they were aimed at defending the “rule of law here and around the world”.

Beijing China Henry Chen Unsplash
Image credit: Henry Chen/Unsplash

‘China is not our friend’

“I know there are CEOs of chip companies in this audience who were a little cranky with me when I did that, because you’re losing revenue,” she said.

“Such is life, protecting our national security matters more than short term revenue. Newsflash: democracy is good for your businesses. Rule of law here and around the world is good for your businesses.”

She criticised Nvidia for developing chips that performed just below the limit set by her department for export to China.

“That’s what industry does,” she said, adding, “That’s not productive.”

Budget plea

“Every day China wakes up trying to figure out how to do an end run around our export controls … which means every minute of every day, we have to wake up tightening those controls and being more serious about enforcement with our allies,” she said.

She said the Bureau of Industry and Security has the same budget it did a decade ago – $200 million (£158m) – in spite of having twice as many licence requests due to the huge increase in export controls on China.

“It’s like the cost of a few fighter jets. Come on. Let’s go fund this operation like it needs to be funded so we can do what we need to do to protect America,” she said.

She added that the US “leads the world” in artificial intelligence and advanced semiconductor design and said, “No way are we going to let [China] catch up.”

‘Water will flow through’

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing on Monday that the US should “stop seeing China as a hypothetical enemy” and should instead “work with China to deliver on the common understandings reached in the San Francisco meeting”, referring to a meeting between the leaders of the US and China last month,

He compared the US’ efforts against China to “building a dam with a sieve”.

“No matter how hard you try, the water will just flow through it,” Wang said.