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RETALIATION: China Bans Intel and AMD Chips from Government Kit

RETALIATION: China Bans Intel and AMD Chips from Government Kit

Another inevitable wave of reciprocal banning has emerged from China, which now seems to want only Chinese hardware and software on government PCs and servers.

The FT was the first to report on it but The Register was good enough to offer a link to the source document. Published with no apparent fanfare late last year, it lists the results of ‘Safety and Reliability Evaluation Results’, which we understand refers to those products that are considered to be safe enough to use by the Chinese government. All the chips, operating systems and databases are made in China.

‘Beijing’s procurement revamp is part of a national strategy for technological autarky in the military, government and state sectors that has become known as xinchuang or “IT application innovation”,’ says the FT report. ‘The standards “are the first nationwide, detailed and clear instructions for the promotion of xinchuang”, said a local government official managing IT system substitution.’

US kit, such as Intel and AMD chips, Windows OS and databases such as Oracle, has been ubiquitous in IT systems of all sizes, globally, for decades. Unravelling the state apparatus from all of them will presumably be very expensive and time consuming but the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is nothing if not patient and resolute.

The bigger question concerns the relative performance of Chinese equivalents. The country’s main semiconductor fab – SMIC – is apparently capable of making relatively advanced chips. But, if we assume the US has succeeded in starving China of the EUV kit needed to make them in an economically viable way, we must conclude the ‘safe’ chips are a few generations older than the best US companies have to offer.

“Huawei has recently filed patents for a manufacturing technique known as quadruple patterning which is a way of making 7nm or 5nm semiconductors on older deep ultraviolet equipment (DUV),” wrote Radio Free Mobile. “Both Intel and TSMC tried this technique for 7nm, but they found that while you could make the chips, the yields were so low that it was not possible to make the chips and [not] lose vast sums of money.”

So, while it’s totally understandable that China would want to retaliate against America’s continued and ramping sanctions against some of its tech companies, this move feels like a Pyrrhic victory. Maybe Chinese software is already on a par with the best of the West but only Dutch company ASML supplies EUV kit. If the CCP ends up extending this ban to all Chinese companies, it seems such a move would be welcomed by US hawks seeking the permanent suppression of the country’s technology capability.

We haven’t seen anything in the Chinese press (which tends to reflect the interests of the CCP) about this. But the not-very-subtle political cartoon below, published over the weekend by the Global Times, is both timely and slightly contradictory, given these new restrictions.

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