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The U.S. government is considering restrictions that would block China — Chinese companies as well as the Chinese government — from accessing U.S.-produced emerging technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence software, according to reporting from Bloomberg. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. significantly expanded its efforts to block China from accessing U.S. semiconductor technology, by setting up rules to curb exports from U.S. and foreign tech firms.
What has the Biden administration concerned: The potential use of advanced technologies for military purposes.
“For example, China has been developing hypersonic missiles and it’s very likely that they have used U.S. chips,” said Xiaomeng Lu, a director in Eurasia Group’s geo-technology practice.
Details are scant on what the administration is planning around quantum computing and AI, but restricting China’s access to those technologies would be consistent with what the U.S. government has done with advanced computer chips. (The strategy has included limiting exports and preventing any U.S. citizen or green card holder anywhere from assisting China’s development of that technology.)
“It’s effective in the short term because of the ubiquity of U.S. software and tools and equipment,” said Kevin Wolf, a partner at Akin Gump who also worked on export controls under former President Barack Obama.
“But the [Biden] administration has been quite candid in saying if allies do not impose similar controls the effectiveness will decline,” Wolf said.
Such cooperation will be a tall order but potentially doable, he said. Still, limiting U.S. exports comes with costs to the U.S.
“The downside we’ve already seen is that it will certainly harm to some extent the profits of U.S. companies,” said Jacob Feldgoise, a data research analyst for the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown.
Meanwhile, some observers express concern that requiring licenses for exporters, which the U.S. did with computer chips, isn’t enough.
“We need tighter controls than what we’ve had and we’re nowhere close to going too far,” said Derek Scissors, a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute.
When it comes to blocking China’s access to quantum computers and artificial intelligence, though, the government is reportedly only in very early stages of drawing up a policy.
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