US places restrictions on China’s biggest chipmaker, citing military fears

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The Beijing branch of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation. Su Weizhong / Getty Images

The United States’ mistrust of Chinese technology companies was again highlighted on Friday, when the Commerce Department sent a letter to state companies, telling them they must obtain a license before exporting certain products. to China’s largest chipmaker, due to concerns about the military use of the technology.

The Commerce Department said in the letter that exports to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation “may pose an unacceptable risk of diversion to military use in the People’s Republic of China,” according to a report published Saturday by The New York Times.

Last year, the United States imposed restrictions on companies selling equipment to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, amid concerns over Huawei’s relationship with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used to spy on devices. ‘other countries and companies.

And the popular video app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is currently facing a potential ban in the United States over concerns that the user data it collects could be shared with the Chinese Communist government. Both Huawei and ByteDance have called such concerns unfounded.

The Times notes that although the SMIC is China’s most technologically advanced semiconductor maker, it lags behind the leading chipmakers by several years and cannot manufacture chips that support them. most advanced applications. And for the processors it makes, it relies on equipment and software from American companies, the Times said.

When asked about the Commerce Department’s letter and the new export restrictions, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said in a statement to CNET that the BIS could not comment, ” on a specific question ”.

The BRI “continuously monitors and assesses any potential threat to US national security and foreign policy interests,” the spokesperson added, and “will take appropriate action as necessary” with its interagency partners.

The SMIC did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment, but a spokesperson for the company told The Times that the SMIC only manufactures chips for commercial and civilian use and has no connection with the forces. Chinese armies.

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