The US is said to be planning new limits on Chinese AI and supercomputing companies

The Biden administration is expected to announce new measures to restrict Chinese companies’ access to technologies that enable high-performance computing, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, the latest in a series of moves aimed at hampering Beijing’s ambitions to build next-generation weapons. and automate large-scale surveillance systems.

The measures, which could be announced as soon as this week, would be some of the biggest steps taken by the Biden administration to cut off China’s access to advanced semiconductor technology. They would build on a Trump-era rule that struck a blow Chinese telecoms giant Huawei by banning companies around the world from sending it products made using American technology, machinery or software.

A number of Chinese companies, government research labs and other entities are expected to face similar restrictions as Huawei, according to two people with knowledge of the plans. In effect, any company that uses technologies made in the United States will not be able to sell to Chinese entities targeted by the administration. It is not yet clear which Chinese companies and laboratories will be affected.

The wide expansion of what is known as the foreign direct product rule is only part of the restrictions planned by Washington. The administration is also expected to try to control the sale of state-of-the-art tools made in the United States to China’s domestic chipmakers.

Washington also plans to limit the sale of US-made microchips to China’s most powerful supercomputing and data center projects, the people said. That limitation could end up inhibiting the ability of major academic institutions and internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent to get the parts they need to build leading data centers and supercomputers.

Over time, as supercomputer performance levels rise, the cap could seriously hamper China’s ability to develop the powerful number-crunching technology that forms the basis for innovations in a variety of fields, including the biosciences. , artificial intelligence and missile engineering. Curbs on chip and chip making tools were previously reported by Reuters.

Administration officials are also considering other measures that could be applied to the Chinese memory chip maker. Yangtze Memory Technologies Companyor YMTC, several people familiar with the discussions said.

The White House declined to comment on the planned restrictions. A spokesman for the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which has authority over the types of technology companies can export outside the United States, said they couldn’t confirm anything at this time.

If enacted, the measures would be the strongest push to date by the United States to attack China’s burgeoning market for supercomputers and data centers. Many Chinese universities, state-owned companies, and Internet firms use supercomputers that have a variety of capabilities. Many are used for important yet prosaic tasks, such as analyzing traffic, managing social media, or predicting the weather, but analysts and researchers have shown that others are used for more malicious purposes.

Porcelain has used some supercomputers to boost invasive surveillance systems that target ethnic minorities. Others have been used by Beijing to model nuclear explosions and design next-generation weapons that could evade US defenses.

For example, in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of minority Uyghurs have been interned and monitored, a supercomputer was built with chips made by Intel and Nvidia it has been used to process images collected from video cameras ubiquitous in the area. Both Intel and Nvidia have said they were unaware of what they called misuse of their technology.

The US government has tried to stem the flow of technology to projects like these in recent years, but those efforts have been thwarted by the widespread availability of powerful microchips.

Many of these products sold to China are manufactured outside of the United States, which means that the traditional methods of US government regulation, which focus on products exported from the United States, do not apply. So officials in the Trump and Biden administrations resorted to taking advantage of the foreign direct products rule, a sweeping regulation that prevents products made anywhere in the world with the help of American technology, machinery, or software from being sold to foreigners. China. Even semiconductors made in other countries are often made using American equipment and software.”

The Biden administration has faced some criticism that it has moved slowly to curb China’s access to cutting-edge American technology. To many administration officials, China’s recent progress in clearing a key technological hurdle in semiconductor manufacturing underscored the urgent need for more expansive regulation in the industry, people familiar with the discussions said.

The export controls are part of a broader strategy by the Biden administration to deprive China of key technologies while pumping money into US chip factories. The measures come as Beijing increases its aggression towards Taiwanwhich produces nearly all of the world’s advanced semiconductors.

Speaking at the White House last month, Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, said that the US government had previously tried to stay a few generations ahead of competitors in certain key technologies, but that approach was no longer tough enough.

“Given the fundamental nature of certain technologies, such as advanced logic and memory chips, we need to maintain as large an advantage as possible,” he said.

The Biden administration has cited his extensive use of export controls as a powerful tool to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, saying it will cripple Russia’s defense, technology, energy and other critical sectors in the long run. US officials say they can apply the same tool to other rival nations, particularly China, to address national security challenges. Officials say the Trump administration’s use of export controls to hinder Huawei served as a blueprint for how they framed controls on Russian companies.

Last month, the Biden administration imposed new restrictions in the sale of some sophisticated computer chips to China and Russia. Those limits focused on high-end chip models known as graphics processing units sold by Silicon Valley companies like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices. The products, originally created to render images in video games, have become central to the large computers used to train artificial intelligence algorithms.

Paul Triolo, senior vice president for China at Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategy firm, said the move was “probably the strongest type of export control and regulatory statement the US government has ever made regarding access from China to American technology,” and which came at a sensitive time for Chinese leaders, ahead of a meeting of the 20th Communist Party congress, which begins on October 16.

“The administration,” he said, “is putting its foot down here.”

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