back to article US ponders tech export ban on SMIC, China's biggest chipmaker

The US government is contemplating a Huawei-style ban on Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China's largest chipmaker. SMIC is known to provide chips to Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Texas Instruments among others. The company is listed on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock exchanges, having quit the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well Duh! It is election year

    So anything to keep the current POTUS front page news is considered good 'free' publicity. Trump just loves being the centre of attention. I'm not sure that he'll be able to handle not being POTUS any more after next Jan. Then it won't be all about 'me','me','me' and more money for me and my family.(sic)

    He's leaving a huge mess for the next POTUS to sort out. Probably quite deliberate. Impliment a scorched Earth Policy and let the next POTUS deal with it. That'll take them at least one term and by then the GOP head honcho's can hope that they have a credible candidate lined up to beat Kamala Harris (Biden's VP) who will get to stand in his place unless she makes a total ballsup of the job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well Duh! It is election year

      Trump just loves being the centre of attention. I'm not sure that he'll be able to handle not being POTUS any more after next Jan

      If he doesn't bail before the election I have a feeling he'll still be the centre of attention, but of a cellmate called Bubba. I don't know how the Trump administration is going to end, but there will be an awful lot of prison time involved. It will at least address unemployment amongst lawyers.

      I just hope it ends now - I already wonder if the country can actually still recover from this experiment in idiocy. I think it'll take generations.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Well Duh! It is election year

        I read a comment elsewhere that thought Trump was trying to get the left, right and the cops to go all out on each other so he could announce martial law by November and the cancel/postpone the elections.

        I wouldn't put that kind of thinking past him.

        The Great Dicktator

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Well Duh! It is election year

          "he could announce martial law by November and the cancel/postpone the elections."

          That would be an OK-ish outcome. He's constitutionally out on his ear in January, as is Pence, and then Nancy Pelosi becomes President.

  2. martinusher Silver badge

    SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

    ....but the US government definitely isn't. Its gone Wild West on us.

    I feel that the only reason why 'the rest of the world' is being so polite about it is that they're hoping that come January 20th there might be adults again in the Administration. This might not change policies, though -- you don't need much to ignite a full on Red Scare so I expect that all these sanctions and Entity Lists will contine. Too bad its doing US companies a fair bit of direct damage.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

      Making America great again at the expense of most of it's major trading partners will ultimately lead to it having no one to trade with.

      So unless they think they will just be able to buy all those broken comanies (countries) at knock down prices or even just walk in and take over, this current 'bankrupt everyone' protocol is not going to be good for anyone.

      1. sev.monster

        Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

        Look, I just want to buy a Saiga or VEPR. Please.

    2. PhilipN Silver badge

      Red Scare

      Right - like the blatant use of Novichok.

      Over which the Trump administration is sanctioning the hell out of Russia........oh.....hang on a sec.....

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Red Scare

        Right - like the blatant use of Novichok.

        Err.. right. The world's deadliest nerve agent with a rather low mortality rate. Possibly administered by the victim's aide via a cup of airport tea. And against a target who's not the Russian opposition leader, but a minor one. And Putin is so evil that he'd use an obvious Russian poison against an obvious Russian target so everyone can go "Those evil Russians!".

        Over which the Trump administration is sanctioning the hell out of Russia........oh.....hang on a sec...

        The US hasn't got much left to sanction. There is, however, a little gas pipeline coming soon (maybe) that would impact US LNG exports, reduce the need to transit Ukraine, reduce sales of LNG from Middle Eastern countries, and a long list of usual suspects who'd like to see Russia made to look bad.

        1. PhilipN Silver badge

          Re: Red Scare

          Low mortality rate? Just puts the victim through huge physiological trauma and into a coma for days.

          So that's alright then.

          Maybe the aide stocked up on Novichok at the supermarket?

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Red Scare

            Low mortality rate? Just puts the victim through huge physiological trauma and into a coma for days.

            So that's alright then.

            Nope, not at all, but such is politics. But based on the evidence, Novichok doesn't seem very effective. It's also not alright because given the publicity, far more people are aware of those agents. Especially as an intent behind them was to allow their creation from easily available precursors.. Which means other people could be making, or trying to make them. And then Germany seems to be witholding evidence, yet demanding Russia conduct a full investigation.

            And then there's the reporting, and a very swift claim of deliberate poisoning. And of course blaming Putin, who despite being an evil genius, doesn't seem able to organise a simple assassination. And then there's the way Navalny's described as an opposition leader, which is slightly true, yet he and his party hold no political power in national or regional government. And of course he's made other enemies. He was pro-Crimea annexation, he's been pro-Belarus democracy protests, and he's claimed to have been involved in some dubious deals. And most recently he was ordered to pay 'Putin's Chef' 88m rubles. Prigozhin apparently wanted to enforce and bankrupt Navalny, which will be harder to do if Navalny's dead, or having a rather strong claim to asylum in Germany.

            So all rather strange, as well as being a bit off-topic. It's right to demand a full, thorough and plausible investigation, but it seems like the conclusions have already been reached.

            But that's also back to the topic in hand, ie the wielding of sanctions and their effects. Which so far seem to have been to create stronger ties between Russia, China and other targets at the expense of the EU, and other nations. Or the US itself given the number of US companies that use SMIC, and won't be able to if they're sanctioned.. Which is probably the intent, ie forcing those companies to bring more manufacturing back to the US.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: Red Scare

              "And then there's the reporting, and a very swift claim of deliberate poisoning."

              Opposition person falls ill swiftly in Russia, very good chance it is poisoning, I'm afraid. And now, you know, confirmed.

              "And of course blaming Putin, who despite being an evil genius, doesn't seem able to organise a simple assassination."

              Actually, Russia has assassinated loads of people both inside and outside of its borders.

        2. fajensen Silver badge

          Re: Red Scare

          The US hasn't got much left to sanction.

          Except Rocket Engines, Uranium and Titanium. However, being all about "free markets", the USA only sanctions things that hurt their competitors and they do have a big chip on their sholders about the EU.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Red Scare

            Except Rocket Engines, Uranium and Titanium. However, being all about "free markets", the USA only sanctions things that hurt their competitors and they do have a big chip on their sholders about the EU.

            Yup, that's business. The EU is/was the world's largest economy, and then there's been China's economic growth. Mostly aided by the desire to outsource & offshore transfering rather useful skills and knowledge. So China doesn't just ship cuddly toys, it now ships iPhone killers. So I think there's some method to the madness, ie 'encouraging' more US manufacturing and less reliance on offshore, especially for stuff deemed critical to the US economy. That may hurt US companies short-term, and may be too little, too late.

            But some of the other stuff is in hand, so the reinvigorated US space programme reducing the need for Russian launches, or Russian/Ukrainian engines. But that's also a competitive market with nations like China and India making inroads. The US will still need it's own capability for sensitive stuff, like the upcoming last Delta IV launch, and bunging SpaceX a wad of cash to support vertical integration of a mystery package. Uranium shouldn't be a problem given the US produces it.. Give or take that odd Uranium-1 deal under Clinton/Obama, but can also be sourced from other friendly nations. Rare earths have also been in the news, but they're not always that rare, and the US probably has some kicking around. Make Geologists Great Again! or something.. :p

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Red Scare

          > against an obvious Russian target so everyone can go "Those evil Russians!".

          The use of a "obvious Russian poison" sends a clear message to dissidents and reporters that opposition to Putin puts their lives at risk and that Putin has no fear of the repercussions.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Red Scare

            The use of a "obvious Russian poison" sends a clear message to dissidents and reporters that opposition to Putin puts their lives at risk and that Putin has no fear of the repercussions.

            Or being an investigative journalist or corruption investigator puts your life at risk from your investigatory subjects, or people that might lose money. Serious Russian criminals don't mess around. As for repercussions, well, those are obvious. Russian poison, must be Putin, Sanction NOW!. Or in the US, demands for a full investigation followed by sanctions. Even though the US has limited investigatory powers inside Russia. And the prime witness is currently in Germany, which would hamper Russian investigations. And that key witness has until recently been in a coma, so unable to provide evidence.

            But he fell ill, therefore deliberate poison, therefore Putin. So no real need to investigate who or how any poison may have been administered. Which would also be a challenge for any investigation, ie reports that he'd only drunk tea that day, and lastly from an airport cafe where he wasn't the customer. And nobody else was reported falling ill. So obviously that means a state action where the cafe had been infiltrated by agents who knew which cup of tea was destined for Navalny so the aide who bought them didn't give the wrong cup to the wrong person. Damn, those Russians are sneaky.. Even though the assassination target survived. Probably just a warning shot..

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

      That, and the exhorbitant privelege of owning and, hence, controlling access to the world's reserve currency. Which is why so many companies got out of Iran when the US broke the agreement.

      But at some point other means of payment will be established and at some point investors won't feel compelled to buy US debt. Probably won't be any time soon but god help them when it happens because the US debt:GDP is staggering and really low levels of domestic savings means that, unlike Japan and Italy, there's not much of a fallback if international creditors take fright.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

        "if international creditors take fright."

        Or one of them decides enough is enough and its time to start handing out punishment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

          That has already happened, or did you miss that unusually unsubtle hint?

          China let its currency float after Trump accused them of manipulating it to harm the dollar. The reality was that the Chinese were doing the exact opposite, but they decided to give those who were paying attention a little demo of what they COULD do if they wanted to, and so let their currency float for a few hours.

          The DOW dropped faster than a 737 MAX in full MCAS mode, and only started recovering when the Chinese re-established control.

          Add to that that their currency has also been approved by the World Bank as reserve currency, and you can see that the Chinese are in principle ready for a takeover. They haven't done it yet, but they can if they deem conditions to be right.

          It's IMHO no longer a matter of "if", but of "when".

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

            "Reports of the death of the Dollar have been much exaggerated".

            The Renminbi is currently not suitable to replace the Dollar. But I guess we can expect to see more money as hedging moving into it, the Euro, the Swiss Franc and a couple of other currencies. More important for the near term, however, will be payment systems that don't rely on SWIFT

      2. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

        The single bigest holders of US Debt are Chinese State owned Banks

        they own about $1.13 trillion or around 18% of US Debt

    4. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: SMIC might be a "law abiding citizen"....

      So who next in. Hi a??

      Lenovo??

      TSMC (China Factories!

      Hon Hai Prescision/Foxconn

      ... all manner of tat producers supplying Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot, Wayfair, Walgreen ???

  3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    So, translating this..

    .. the Trump administration is trying to see if they can gain from threatening with a ban, either in votes, or in the most expensive Trump hotel reservations.

    Cynic, moi?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

      Ah... You must mean the 'Trump Wing' at a Federal Supermax Prison where the former CinC will be spending 25 to life for crimes against the state, lying to Congress (and probably other things).

      Hashtag MakeTrumpServeHardTime

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

        Sorry, but it wont ever happen. The best you can hope for is that Trump gets presented with enough evidence of his previous wrong doing, and be told that he will go quietly into the background like most other former presidents, and will keep his mouth shut on politics from then on in. Oh and that someone takes away his Twitter access...

        Something tells me though even then, he wont be able to keep his mouth shut...

        1. DS999

          Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

          I don't believe past presidents should be imprisoned for crimes committed in office no matter what they did. It would set a terrible precedent where administrations would want to jail their predecessor for lesser and lesser crimes. Though if there was anyone who will probably deserve it, it would be Don the Con Artist.

          Whatever happened there's no way Trump would agree to keep quiet on politics, and if he did make such an agreement I doubt he could manage 48 hours before violating it.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

            "I don't believe past presidents should be imprisoned for crimes committed in office no matter what they did."

            I personally think current Presidents should be able to be jailed for crimes, but there you go.

            1. DS999

              Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

              For what crimes? Leaving out Trump and the partisan spew that will generate.

              Obama: no one can credibly claim he committed any crimes in office, but I imagine a few hyper partisans would be willing to make some up and wish to see him charged

              Bush Jr: Lying to go into Iraq? Warrantless spying? Those were justified by listening to the 'right' intelligence and a legal opinion from someone on his staff, respectively. If he could be charged for either, then just about any president could be charged for the crime of 'making the wrong decision' or 'listening to the wrong people'.

              Clinton: Lying about a blowjob? Lying under oath is a bad thing, but does this particular crime reach the level of jailing a president? If it does, then they'll all do what Trump did and simply refuse to cooperate with an investigation like Clinton voluntarily did. If we would jail them for non cooperation, all you need is the house or senate to be of the other party and come up with a reason to subpoena the president.

              Bush Sr/Reagan: Iran/Contra? They had things pretty well designed so lower level guys took the responsibility. As president it is pretty easy to insure that's ALWAYS the case, and if you don't put anything in writing you can always claim they acted on their own (and optionally pardon them later) If you take the view that the guy in charge is always responsible, then they'd be liable for things underlings did they really didn't know about - underlings with a grudge against the boss could do something illegal as a way to take him down!

              There's always escalation in politics, so if one party's president gets charged, they'll be chomping at the bit to do the same to the other party's president and be willing to do so for more minor crimes. If we'd been doing this for decades, republicans would probably have wanted to have Obama arrested that time he wore a tan suit.

              1. DavCrav Silver badge

                Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

                I meant that the head of government should not be immune from prosecution, or for that matter be able to pardon anyone, let alone his friends.

                And whether the president has committed a crime is a decision for a jury, like any other citizen.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: in the most expensive Trump Hotel reservations

            "It would set a terrible precedent where administrations would want to jail their predecessor for lesser and lesser crimes"

            The answer to that is that administrations shouldn't have that power It would require an independent body that starts work* the moment a head of government ends their period of office, looking at any illegalities that might have taken place during the period of office and possibly during the elections that preceded it and prosecuting accordingly. Such a body would have to be right outside politics and, give or take the normal retirements and recruitments - which clearly would have to be outside the influence of the administration - would be the same one to eventually deal with the new administration as dealt with the previous one. It wouldn't be an exceptional process to conduct such an investigation, just business as usual.

            In reality the role of such a body would be to deter administrations from wrong-doing rather than to punish afterwards although it would obviously be obliged to take action from time to time; at least that would strengthen the deterrent for the next few administrations.

            * In terms of being able to demand and evaluate evidence. There's nothing to stop them taking notes of what's out there in public before then.

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: So, translating this..

      I dont think it counts as cynicism when you're talking about someone's Modus Operandi...

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The horse has bolted

    SMIC will have already ordered all the kit it needs for the next couple of years so threatening it now will have little immediate effect. Global chip production capacity is limited and new fabs take years to build so forcing Qualcomm to move production elsewhere will no doubt just drive up its prices.

    And, of course, all the time China will continue to develop its own IP in chip design and manufacture. Given how capricious the US has become, it would be crazy not to.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: The horse has bolted

      And, of course, all the time China will continue to develop its own IP in chip design and manufacture. Given how capricious the US has become, it would be crazy not to.

      Every time Trump tightens the thumbscrews in his adventure in economic terrorism he is letting China - and the world - know how painful dependency on the US can be.

      It has got to be the ultimate driving force for removing such dependency and, when China's done that, the US will have little leverage left. Let's hope Trump has a plan before the tables get turned.

      Let's hope that plan isn't World War III.

      1. mark l 2 Silver badge

        Re: The horse has bolted

        Of course Trump doesn't have a plan, the furthest ahead he is thinking is the November election, if he doesn't win he knows all the problems with China will get passed onto Biden to deal with. If he does get a second term, then he will do what he's done for the passed 4 years and just wing it day by day.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "SMIC is open to sincere and transparent communication"

    Too bad the current US government isn't.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trumpanoia

    Oh dear. Yet MORE Trumpesque paranoia with no evidence and absolutely no idea of what collateral damage will be caused by his bans and sanctions. Never mind more pressing things like Covid-19. People are still dying and Trump has the audacity to crow and keep telling lies about how well he thinks he's done. That "yes-man", Pence doesn't help either. The sooner they are both ousted, the better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trumpanoia

      Personally I'm hoping for a Covid19 infection.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Trumpanoia

        One doesn't hope for such things but should they happen one's capacity for regret might be minimal.

  7. razorfishsl Silver badge

    SMIC have a record of "cloning" other peoples chip designs........

    Mainly for the mass market chip supply lines.

  8. Sense Amidst Madness

    There are NO Chinese companies that can be described as law abiding citizens.They all work for the Communist Party and will do anything to further the Party interests, legal or not.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Abiding the law

      You show considerable ignorance of contemporary China.

      As in any country, Chinese companies are bound by national law first and international trade rules second. That's all.

      1. Mark Exclamation

        Re: Abiding the law

        You show considerable ignorance of the Chinese Communist Party.

        ALL Chinese companies are beholden to the wishes and demands of the Chinese government. Any company that refuses or questions these demands tend to lose their top management very quickly, and they disappear forever, replaced by compliant management. And this is why you can't trust Huawei's protestations about sanctions and saying they have no link to the CCP. They may not have a direct link, as such, but they are legally-bound to do what the CCP demands.

        The USA is far from perfect, but they don't do this.

        1. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Abiding the law

          This happens in the US, you just dont read about it, as The citizens of CCP are not allowed to read of the overstepping of their leaders.

          FISA Section 702

          CLOUD Act

          The continued lack of National legislation on privacy and the directives concerning promoting data sharing between agencies and departments.....

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