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Tech war: US ban on chip exports to have little effect on Chinese military for now, analysts say

  • The US has ramped up its tech war with China, with tighter export controls and more Chinese companies on entity list
  • But ban thresholds for chips are too advanced to affect the PLA, which still lags well behind the civilian sector in their usage, observers point out

Tighter US export controls on semiconductors are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the Chinese military, but China will still need to work on chip self-sufficiency to face future challenges, analysts forecast.

This comes amid an escalation in the US-China tech war, with Washington imposing further sanctions earlier this month, restricting the export of more key technologies and hi-tech items, including “advanced computing chips”.

The sanctions also expand the US Commerce Department’s entity list, subjecting companies to government licensing and sanctions requirements.

They also ban US persons from working for China in hi-tech areas, as Washington seeks to hobble the Chinese manufacture of advanced semiconductors and their use by the People’s Liberation Army.

But due to the technology lag for chips used by the PLA, the latest US sanctions would have little effect on Chinese arms production at this point, observers said.

“The chip technology for civilian use is on a higher level than for military use,” Macau-based military commentator Antony Wong Tong said.

Announcing the latest tech sanctions, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said one reason for the move was to restrict China’s access to “sensitive technologies with military applications”.

In a statement on October 7, the bureau said the new measures would restrict China’s ability to obtain advanced technologies that are used “to produce advanced military systems including weapons of mass destruction; improve the speed and accuracy of its military decision making, planning, and logistics, as well as of its autonomous military systems; and commit human rights abuses”.

According to senior department official Thea Kendler, China has “poured resources into developing supercomputing capabilities and seeks to become a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. It is using these capabilities to monitor, track, and surveil their own citizens, and fuel its military modernisation.”

Source: SCMP