China’s Yangtze River cut off among dozens of US chipmakers • The Register

The Yangtze Memory Technologies Company (YMTC) is one of more than two dozen Chinese companies and institutions targeted in the latest round of Biden government export restrictions on semiconductor technology.

Filed in a bulletin [PDF] Early Friday, the US Commerce Department added 31 Chinese firms to its “unconfirmed list,” effectively blocking them from importing controlled US goods — in this context, American chip design and manufacturing tools — amid fears they could undermine the US -Could be used for foreign policy or national security.

According to the Department of Commerce, the decision to extend U.S. export controls to Chinese companies was made because regulators were unable to determine how goods were used after import, partly due to obstruction from the Chinese government.

The export ban primarily targets Chinese chip, biomedical and chemical companies, as well as several national universities including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai University of Science and Technology and Shanghai Tech University.

However, one of the largest chipmakers on the list is YMTC, a major maker of DRAM and NAND memory for the Chinese market.

The company’s inclusion on the US Unverified List is hardly surprising given the setback both Apple and YMTC suffered after reports surfaced that the iPhone maker could source chips from the Chinese storage provider.

“Apple is playing with fire,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Financial Times.

“She understands the security risks posed by YMTC. As it moves forward, it will face a test unlike anything the federal government has ever seen.”

The news marks YMTC’s latest hit in less than a week. On Wednesday, the head of China’s largest storage provider abruptly resigned. However, unlike the controversy surrounding China’s Big Fund, the decision does not appear to be linked to allegations of corruption.

These kinds of export controls are not uncommon for the Commerce Department, which has taken similar actions under both the Trump and Biden administrations. For example, in the final days of the Trump presidency, the administration added China’s largest foundry operator, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC), to the list of US companies and banned the company from importing certain US technologies without a license.

The filing comes as the US Bureau of Industry issued revised rules [PDF] on the export of electronics design software and test equipment for semiconductor manufacturing.

In recent months, the White House has stepped up efforts to contain China’s semiconductor industry. The Biden administration’s latest action comes just weeks after the Commerce Department warned three prominent U.S. companies responsible for making chipmaking equipment — KLA Corp, Lam Research and Applied Materials — that they would allow them to export equipment prohibited without express licensing to China.

Restrictions on the export of semiconductor manufacturing kits to China prompted fears that the restrictions could inadvertently hurt Samsung Electronics and SK Group. Both companies have significant investments in China.

But South Korean foundry operators are likely to be spared the export bans, according to a Reuters report late Thursday. ® China’s Yangtze River cut off among dozens of US chipmakers • The Register

Rick Schindler

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