back to article Biden administration prepares to bring hammer down on Chinese chipmakers

The Biden Administration is reportedly prepping another round of sanctions in a bid to further hamper Chinese chipmakers. Citing sources familiar with the matter, Reuters says the Commerce Department is poised to enact export bans on semiconductor manufacturing equipment necessary to produce chips smaller than 14nm to the …

  1. Alpharious

    Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

    Correct me if i am wrong or misinformed, but is there not a chip shortage? If so then wouldn't this worsen it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

      Seeing as it is only US (and cooperating allies) exports, I guess not for the west.

      On the other hand, the bigger problem for the West may be reducing dependency on cheaper Chinese parts - and much more difficult problem to overcome.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

        The export ban is for tech used in _making_ chips, so the idea is to make the chip shortage worse worldwide.

        At least in the short term.

        Long term, it seems to be stimulating innovation in the east. Russia can now source chips in China they previously could only get from the US.

        Not sure that an information ban is realistic in this day and age. Better to try to make things cheaper than the competitors if you want to control supply.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

          "The export ban is for tech used in _making_ chips"

          Yes, but which chips? This ban might hamstring China w.r.t. it's production of state of the art cpus for high end computing (stuff at the 3 to 5 um lithographic limit). But that's a tiny part of the market. Most of which can be satisfied with 14 um microcontrollers. And they will still grab a huge chunk of worldwide sales, reducing the potential income of competitors who want such sales to support high end chip R&D.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

            "3 to 5 um lithographic limit"

            "14 um microcontrollers"

            Oh dear. Another El Reg commentard who has trouble with semiconductor units of measurement.

        2. tooltalk

          Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

          Yep, and most of those chip manufacturing supply-chain is in either the US and Japan (or about 70+%). China and Taiwan import pretty much everything (they have little or no supply-chain of their own) and it would take significant time & resources for them to organically develop their own -- ie, without outside help.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

      >Correct me if i am wrong or misinformed, but is there not a chip shortage? If so then wouldn't this worsen it?

      But only for cheap Chinese versions of cutting edge chips that they don't make yet.

      What's important for national security is that China won't be able to develop next generation AI supercomputer GPU chips that are used in imaginary next generation weapons.

      Fortunately all the chips that are actually used in deployed systems were designed 10-20 years ago and are made in China using 10-20 year old fabs

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

        As was once explained to me by a quality consultant, the military prefers older, time tested, components for equipment that has to operate reliably from Arctic Cold to desert afternoons and may be in use without replacement for decades. In the US at least, there are biases toward such components built into the procurement specs. Also, the chips have to meet military, not commercial, performance specs. In some cases I believe, Mil-Speced components are required to be individually tested, not just batch sampled.

        Also, military test and development cycles tend to be extraordinarily long by civilian standards. Decades in many cases.

        But doesn't this tend to produce equipment that is outdated by marketing standards? Yep. In many cases, it is slow, bulky, and power hungry. And it doesn't often come in fashionable colors. But it (usually) does work. And it (often) works the same after falling off a truck and being run over by the next three vehicles in the convoy. And someone who was trained to use it eight years ago and hasn't seen one since will (probably) be able to grab the current version and use it without having to puzzle over a UI that has been gratuitously altered three times for no very obvious reason.

        And, Oh yes, I've been told by folks that know how the semiconductor fab down the road from me works, that one modest part of their business is producing some Mil-Speced old-fashioned commodity chips for the military. Chips that equipment mongers aren't allowed to purchase from overseas anyway.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      You are (somewhat) misinformed

      There isn't a chip shortage for NAND and DRAM - prices for both have been falling lately and are anticipated to continue to fall.

      There isn't a chip shortage at the leading edge either - the kind of chips Apple puts in iPhones or Dell puts in a new PC. It is chips made with older technologies 10-25 years out of date that are in shortage.

      No one is trying to introduce export controls on the technologies used to make those chips. They are made everywhere, even in the US to a limited extent, but covid caused so many issues that even if no chip fab ever shut down for covid we'd still have been dealing with shortages due to changes in demand patterns, massive shipping snarls that are still being worked out, etc.

    4. tooltalk

      Re: Isn't this going to make the chip shortage worse?

      banning Chinese chip makers won't make much difference. China's domestic market consumes some ~25% of all chips produced globally, but they barely produce ~8%. And it's not easy to build their own chip industry from ground up largely b/c the chip manufacturing supply-chain sector is outside China or Taiwan -- China/Taiwan depend almost entirely on Japan, the US, the Dutch (EUV), etc imports for equipments.

      China's own equipment maker SMEE just started to make 28nm lithos and SMIC's 14nm mass production line has been up for a while, but it's still too small to make a difference.

  2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Proof proof reading reading needed.

  3. Lordrobot

    Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

    This only supercharges China's semiconductor industry. Thanks to this moronic Nancy Kerrigan Kneecapping Strategy of lead pipe Murica... China now has 12" wafers, Ion implanters, all the substrate modifiers, and achieved 7nm scale in two years with NO USA products. The USA has never achieved a 7nm standard PERIOD.

    Oh and crushing Nvidia's largest GPU customers is dumb as dirt. China has Biren BR100 With 77 Billion Transistors on 7nm. Faster Than NVIDIA Ampere In AI Horsepower. This was a 2020 Startup. Biren Technology.... funded initially by SMIC.

    Ask Nvidia how that pares in developmental speed from the A 100. China is moving at light speed.

    To all you retro-minded protectionists, I can give you dozens of examples where you have blocked China and they have gone forward and developed their own capacity. But I can't give you one example of how protectionism has benefited any US Business. Protectionism destroyed Intel's hopes in the handheld market.

    You are not winning anything. The US lost the Trade war with China. Want proof, your Trade deficit with China has tripled with Trump Tariffs to over $600 Billion a year. And cutting off tech sales is only adding to the deficit.

    Look at what Trump did to your soy farmers. He destroyed them. From 300,000 soy farmers down to 100,000 soy farmers from 109 MMT of soy down to 34 MMT of soy presently. Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina have gone from 110 MMT of Soy to over 200MMT of soy all purchased by China. US protectionism is putting you out of business! The framer is not to blame. Trump took down the farmer for his political stupidity. Trump knew all... but the worst day in US Agricultural History was the that tank of orange liquid stupid, tweeted that the US Gov would backstop any soy losses of the US Farmer. That one stupid tweet caused 65 MMT of soy contracts to become instantly voidable by the Chinese through force Majeure. It just shows Trump knew nothing about commodities or markets or trade. 65 MMT of soy contracts dissolved is mere minutes after the blowhard released the tweet.

    Now we have UNION JOE BIDEN... the king of US technology. Better review FOXCONN and their promise of 13,000 jobs before you count on Ohio becoming the centre of the Global Semiconductor FAB. Intel failed at 10nm fab but they are now going to produce 2mn fab. It is just soooooooo easy. Amerian braggadocio. I will guarantee, that the US will NEVER come close to Asian Fab.

    Think about the equation here... China surprises with a breakthrough in top semiconductor designs in the midst of every sanction the US can attempt and still China breakthroughs not only in scale but in design capacity. The US Gov meanwhile encourages China to develop their own products to avoid buying US products. And the dopes in Murica celebrate this... Can you even imagine what propels that myopia?

    Huawei defeats US chip ban to post record profits August 2022. I thought Trump put Huawei out of business after Canada kidnapped the CEO's daughter.

    But the cost of banning Huawei is increasing. This year, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that estimated costs for “ripping and replacing” Huawei and ZTE equipment in the US had risen from $1.8 billion to $5.6 billion. LOL... my heavens. Murica sure owns China on this bit.

    Emerging markets the fastest growing 5g segments view the unprecedented financial sanctions imposed on Russia by the West with increased wariness, accelerating the growing de-dollarization trend in an effort to avoid “financial ex-communication” if they were to cross any of the intentionally veiled red lines set by the US.

    Oh great sages of the downvote... NAME one example where protectionism had saved any US OR UK OR EU business... IT HASN'T because there are no examples. NAME ONE winner picked over the years by the US GOV? NAME ONE. Jimmy Carter was solar cells. A complete Bust. Reagan was the SuperCollider. That went well. Bush II a real genius... pushed for the Hydrogen car and hydrogen gas stations. Obama into solar cells, and battery factories and not one battery was made. Trump saw international investment into the US drop to zero. Not one US multinational left CHINER when Trump decreed they must leave. LOL. What a dope.

    NOW with 80-year-old career politician JOE, it is FAB and there won't be a single US Fab operation going in six years that can match Samsung or TSMC today. And you think Asia will stand still helping the US play catch up? Are you insane?

    Aside from the UK which is seeking US Statehood, Europe is beginning to contemplate that the US game is political not trade beneficial. This will make it even more challenging for the US to persuade less developed countries to join the Huawei 5G ban if this is seen as a further example of the US weaponizing its dominant position in the global system rather than functioning as a fiduciary of that system for the benefit of all market participants. The fact that the US has claimed Huawei systems spy on citizens but has never produced a single thread of evidence is weighing on US credibility.

    After spying on Merkel's phone and getting caught at it, the US has no credibility. Reminds me of the false flag in the Gulf of Tonkin upon which the US started the war in Vietnam. The US was last seen fleeing Saigon by Helicopter. Even after this the Blind Dog, the UK, follows Bush II looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction which never existed. Does a Huawei dumb switch really spy on you Muricans? Or does your own NSA spy on you using Murican technology?

    1. tooltalk

      Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

      Sure, wumao. Sanctions are working fine -- America's problem is that they started too late and the US dept of Commerce didn't enforce them until very recently -- remember SMIC got away with $40+B in 80+ licenses until last year (1/3 of them highly "classified"). Nobody wants to build that crippled DUV based 7nm that SMIC developed.

      Please say hello to Huawe who is according to your nosense is winning! LOL!

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

        >Please say hello to Huawe who is according to your nosense is winning! LOL!

        Huawei is actually doing OK. Sure, the US attack on them has slowed them down a bit but its also given them a focus.

        >Nobody wants to build that crippled DUV based 7nm that SMIC developed

        Who's "nobody"?

        Look, meaningless MAGA type sloaganeering might appeal to "the base" but its useless mouthings in the real world. The danger that we run is that first generation technology -- which is what effectively current DUV and EUV are -- is likely to be replaced by better second generation technology. The Commerce Department's restrictions were not instrumental in slowing down Chinese development, what was hampering were the normal commercial rules -- cost of entry, build/make tradeoffs and so on -- and or amateurish political meddling has just upset those rules. We slow the Chinese down for a couple of years and then they end up with a fleet of better mousetraps - and suddenly we can't compete any more.

        Racism is ugly. We in the West still can't get our heads around the fact that those little yellow people are our intellectual equals, they really don't need us, they're not on this planet just to serve our needs.

      2. Lordrobot

        Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

        So sorry to disabuse you... I am not a professional Chinese blogger... If I were I would sue you for Liable per se.

        "Nobody wants to build that crippled DUV based 7nm that SMIC developed." Then why is JOE trying to destroy ASML sales of DUV to CHINER?

        Cleary Murica doesn't because it can't. That is what a braggart does when they can't achieve... I will give you a demonstration...

        Intel failed at 10nm and they had EUV. Oh, that's right the US doesn't make that BROKEN DOWN OLD DUV or EUV do they? No Sir, they [Murica] doesn't make that either...

        Your third excuse is that the US Government and Commerce Dept is not enforcing your sanctions. Have you asked why? I will tell you. US semiconductor firms are the outfits that want to sell chips to the LARGEST BUYER OF CHIPS IN THE WORLD. If they can't sell them, they go out of business.

        Technology has a very short shelf life akin to a boxcar of Bananas in Needles California where the refrigeration unit has failed. 80% of the so-called embargoed chips are now obsolete museum pieces. But of course, you should continue your Nancy Kerrigan lead pipe kneecapping but there is only one problem... Murica will never land a triple axel. The US Semiconductor industry continues to decline by 3% a year and is accelerating. Why is it accelerating?

        Because no Asian firms want to use US chips that may be embargoed. Come to think of it, neither does Apple. Apple dumped INTEL for its M1 and M2 chips. So long INTEL... Samsung built it own phone chip to sideline snapdragon. And Samsung and China like Qualcomm but your dumb politicians want to destroy Qualcomm sales.

        Apple will use Chinese-made DRAM for Chinese iPhones once again not buying DRAM from a Murican firm. Your sanctions are doing a bang-up job of destroying US semiconductor sales... which is why the decline in US Semiconductors is accelerating.

        Thanks for supporting my above-made arguments.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

      You forgot "UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is

      ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS"

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

        To be fair it does make a change from the Russians.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

          The thing about Chinese propaganda is 30minutes later you want some more.

          1. Lordrobot

            Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

            So my thoughtful and riveting post to you is mere Chinese Propaganda... You should cling to that thought and pretend that CHINER is the CHINER of Pearl S Buck...

            Meanwhile, you can't refute a single fact I presented. NOT ONE rebuttal.

            The great thing about Murican bullcrap is that while the rest of the world tires of it, Muricans can down metric tonnes of it delivered by forklift and still have room for dessert.

            1. martinusher Silver badge

              Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

              A lot of 'merkans -- especially hose not on the coasts or in universities -- still think that Chinese people are likee Charllee Chan. Seriously. They just can't cram into their heads the notion that these people are just like us. So its obvious that if they have any technology its got to have been stolen / misappropriated because they can't invent stuff (etc.).

              Meanwhile the rest of us note the number of Chinese names on academic papers and patents. There's an awful lot of them and they're hungry. If we hadn't started all this BS then most of them would be happy wolfing down our overpriced iPhones (made in China but profits generated in the US)((Ireland, actually, but that's FinTech for you). Now they've got a goal, a national focus. Ours is to stop them. Theirs is to carry on doing what they're doing and excel at it. We're screwed -- unless we can change the way we do things.

              1. tooltalk

                Re: Well Murica... if Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

                Most of Chinese names you see on chip-making academic papers and patents are most probably from Taiwan -- TSMC is now #4 top US patent grantee, only after IBM, Samsung, and Cannon. You'd also find that, if you dig deeper, most of the top brass/engineers at TSMC are also US-educated.

                China's chip industry is still very young and they don't really have indigenous chip making talents or expertise of their own. It's likewise no surprise then that most of China's chip initiatives are spearheaded or assisted by Taiwanese expat in China (ie, former TSMC engineers). They are not necessarily "hungry," but they are definitely looking to enrich themselves by transfering their know-how. -- just look at SMIC's top co-honcho, Mong-Song Liang, a former-TSMC executive/engineer (with PhD from UCBerkeley).

    3. Zolko Silver badge

      If Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

      Because that's the only thing politicians can do: more of the same. It's true for Europe (if the EU is not working it's because we don't have enough of it), covid vaccines (if the vaccines are not working it's because of the unvaccinated), money (if people are getting poorer because of inflation, let's print even more money) ...

      What we're witnessing is the end of the British Empire based on fossil energy and started in the beginning of the 19th century with the industrial revolution. Like all empires, this one lasted also for 200 years.

      I'm curious to know what comes next

      1. Lordrobot

        Re: If Sanctions are working so well...Why do you need more?

        Murican Statehood of course...

  4. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Other than clearly protectionism of US based chips manufactures, what is the justification for banning the export of these technologies to China?

    They already have nuclear weapons including hypersonic missiles so i guess the ship as already sailed on that one, maybe China are planning to build a death star or some other dooms day device we don't know about with all these cutting edge chips?

    1. VoiceOfTruth

      It is just protectionism, nothing else.

      The USA has its own version of China's so called "long game". It is PNAC - Project for a New American Century. The problem with PNAC (or for PNAC advocates) is that China very effectively outcompetes the USA on so many levels.

      China in the last 50 years has raised hundreds of millions out of poverty. Meanwhile in the USA they issue more food stamps every day. The capitalist USA shows its pleasant side when horrendous monsters demand there should not be a minimum wage - let them eat acorns, maybe? It's a real indignity that a supposed "Christian" country (yeah, my arse it is) hates poor people so much.

      Yet the USA wants the world to "get with the program".

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        The US doesn't hate poor people. It loves them. To exploit for cheap labour ofcourse! So create as many as possible. All dependent on that meager wage of 2 or 3 jobs just to scrape by. Incapable of leaving, incapable of putting up a fight. Just the way they like it. It's all according to the "American Dream" (terms and limitations may apply)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The nice thing about poor labor abroad is you don't have to see or smell them, poor people at home could even be a threat if they vote in their own interests

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Luckily there seems to be almost no chance of that happening in the US.

            For reasons I just can't begin to understand - my ex would consistently oppose the welfare policies that were the only way she had a roof of her own over her head and food on her children's table. Now my son is an adult (see - I resisted the seductive lure of the quotes), he seems to think that Amazon offers great jobs and it's AI has the workers best interests at heart.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > It is just protectionism, nothing else.

        If it's pure protectionism, then why is China singled out? Why is this not a global export ban?

        Face it, this is a consequence of China's incessant and ongoing childish behaviour - diplomatically, economically, and militarily.

        > China in the last 50 years has raised hundreds of millions out of poverty.

        By redefining "poverty", and then decreeing that poverty has been "eliminated" so they don't have to do anything about it! There's still hundreds of millions in abject poverty in China, but the government statistics won't tell you that.

        > Meanwhile in the USA they issue more food stamps every day.

        Aka, times are tough but the USA provides charity to their neediest!

        Meanwhile in China people starve to death in their apartments, because of needless "Zero Covid" lockdowns during which private deliveries are banned and government food deliveries are routinely stolen and resold on the black market, if the food wasn't rotten in the first place.

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Downvoted mostly because, based on your ramblings, I don't think you have standing to accuse anyone else of childish behavior.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It was all true and apropos of the statements being replied to, so it seems disingenuous to describe it as "rambling" or "childish".

            I would say a "childish" reply would be one which did not address any of the arguments made, and contained nothing but ad-hominems.

        2. tooltalk

          > why is China singled out? Why is this not a global export ban?

          I'm very much inclined to believe that Biden's recent policies are designed to thwart China as well other foreign competitors who are also supposed America's allies -- ie, protectionism. If the Biden administration really worried about China's rising threat in tech and EV, all he needs to do is go after American companies like Apple and Tesla who have massive manufacturing base in China. American companies like Apple further have gone out of their way, not only to make products cheap in China, but also invested over $270+B to prop up China's young tech industry and, to this date, in spite of the on-going trade war, the company make every effort to source supplies from China when there are other competitive products from mature suppliers like Micron -- Marc Rubio was the only to speak out against this. Apple's iPhones and iPads made in China thesedays account for the majority of the US-China trade imbalance -- the US can cut down about 1/3 of it by ending Apple's China outsourcing.

  5. Rosie Davies

    Graft

    That's about the most jarring bit of US English I've seen on the site so far. In the UK grafting is working your whatnots off, whereas in the US it's skimming a little something off for yourself. Same word but completely different meanings.

    In a related point, does anyone know of any sites that resemble El Reg as it was? Sort of mid-2000s to mid-2010s heyday era. I'm liking the new site less and less with each passing week.

    Rosie

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Graft

      I quite liked their minimalist monochrome scheme. Any patriotic american 2nd amendmentists want to pop over to blighty and continue the revolution?

  6. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Dear China

    Dear China,

    Because we don't want you rolling your own (so to speak), Uncle Sam is indirectly encouraging you to go take it from the small island nation to your southeast who have really good shit and lots of it.

    You've long lusted after it and Uncle Sam has said no, but since he keeps saying no to everything, we know you are eventually going to tell him to fuck off sometime. And what's Uncle Sam going to do, tell the American people they can't buy anything anymore?

    Kind regards,

    Down with sort of thing

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Welcome To Electronic Warfare

      If they really attack Taiwan, we will see whether California is better than Shenzen and Chengdu.

      Based on Ukraine, I would bet on California.

  7. martinusher Silver badge

    We've been down this road before

    The Commerce Department's interference in key technologies has been instrumental in the US losing control of those technologies. We should have learned our lesson from encryption, a legitimate military / security issue but one we tried to control by only allowing the export of ridiculously weak versions. The result was that all meaningful work on the subject - and its standardization -- moved out of the US. Because anything developed in the US is now 'owned' by the US and the commercial risk is just too great.

    The Commerce Dept has always tried to extend its jurisdiction. Back in the 70s and 80s buying American computers came with the added burden that even moving them from office to office in your country required re-licensing. The UK has always enthusiastically enabled this as the loyal lapdog ("special relationship"), other countries more or less. Now they control what others can and can't sell which affects their business -- after all, who is going to make up the sales losses that ASML experience due to the foreign ban on their products' export? We'll fudge and fiddle in the short term but the message is clear for anyone who reads it -- using any American technology is a potential problem. Since a lot of technology is now originating outside the US -- we're not in the 60s and 70s any more --then it will undermine us. But then we've got way more bureaucrats and lawyers than engineers.

    I could tell of the run and games moving lightweight non-American technology between the UK and Europe in the early 80s where the UK government enthusiastically tried to enforce US export restrictions of non-US kit just in case it went East.....but there's no space. Just remember this saga's been going on for years. Its done both the UK's and US's businesses no good. The rest of the world has no time for our games and now has the money and ability to do without us. We have been warned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Business Today, Shooting Tomorrow ?

      NATO already sends warships and fighter planes to the Chinese coast.

      Does it make sense to also trade advanced tech with China ?

      Of course this is a crazy.

      Don't sell them the rope they want to hang us with.

      And make no mistake, NATO+Japan+SK technology is leading in almost any industry. Especially in electronics - which translates into electronic warfare capabilities. Air and sea war is mainly electronic warfare. Blind the enemy radar and you can do what you please with the enemy.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EA 18 GROWLER, RC135, EP3

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_N2adCleI4

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=128uGPpUp4w

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoltgpbwesA

    Every transistor, every chip, every production machine, every electronic instrument, every charge of high end chemical shipped to China will make their job harder. Will make war more likely.

    Support the Crows, be smart.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Diplomatically

    Get a handle on Nancy Pelosi and other f*ckwits. No need to stir the fire, it is already large enough.

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