US ‘To Implement’ China Chip Export Restrictions

The US presidential administration is reportedly preparing to codify rules placing increased restrictions on exports to China of advanced chipmaking tools and artificial intelligence chips.

The rules on chipmaking technology are based on restrictions communicated in letters earlier this year to US chipmaking equipment manufacturers KLA, Lam Research and Applied Materials, Reuters reported.

The intent of the restrictions is to prevent Chinese mainland companies from being able to produce processors with processes smaller than 14 nanometres, which would include the most advanced microprocessors, while allowing Chinese companies to continue to supply the world market with lower-end chips.

A 2 nm wafer fabricated at IBM Research’s Albany facility

Chip advances

A report last month said China’s SMIC had achieved the ability to manufacture advanced 7 nm chips using older fabrication equipment.

The possibility that the administration was planning such rules was first reported in July.

The rules, which could be published in October, would also reportedly include restrictions on artificial intelligence chips communicated in letters sent to Nvidia and AMD last month.

The letters to all five of the companies, which the firms have publicly acknowledged, restrict them from shipping the specified products to Chinese factories without Commerce Department licences.

But the restrictions in so-called “is informed” letters apply only to the companies they are sent to, while officially codified rules would apply generally to any US company producing such technology.

Competition

US officials are also understood to be lobbying allied countries to put similar restrictions into place so that overseas companies face the same constraints as US firms.

The rules could also include products containing AI chips, such as some data centre servers.

The Commerce Department said in a statement, “As a general rule, we look to codify any restrictions that are in is-informed letters with a regulatory change.”

It added that it was “taking a comprehensive approach to implement additional actions… to protect US national security and foreign policy interests”.

The US Chamber of Commerce business lobbying group said in an update to members earlier this month that the Commerce Department may also be planning to add more Chinese supercomputing entities to a trade blacklist.

The administration is also reportedly planning sanctions against Chinese memory chip makers.

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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