U.S. AI tech restrictions plan proposed

U.S. to ban some U.S. investments in China tech sector

The U.S. will ban American investment in some areas of China’s high-tech sector, including artificial intelligence, adding to strained relations between the two superpowers.

U.S. firms will also be invited to disclose what investments they make in China in high-tech sectors.The much-anticipated move gives the U.S. government new power to screen foreign dealings by private companies. The U.S. said the measure would be narrowly targeted. However, it is poised to further chill economic relations between the world’s two largest economies. China has reportedly said it was ‘very disappointed‘. The U.S. ‘has continuously escalated suppression and restrictions on China‘. He added that White House claims that the US was not seeking to hurt China’s economy or separate the two countries did not match its actions. ‘We urge the US side to honour its words‘.

Biden order

The order by U.S. President Biden formally kicks off the push to introduce rules to restrict, even prevent American businesses from investing in firms from ‘countries of concern‘ that are active in advanced semiconductors, quantum computing and certain areas of artificial intelligence.

The government will also require U.S. firms to notify the Treasury Department of investments in firms working on a wider range of artificial intelligence and semiconductor technology.

AI tech
U.S. restriction on AI related tech knowledge to China

The rules are not expected to apply to ‘portfolio’ investments, in which firms invest passively in companies via the stock market, but are focused on active investments made by private equity and venture capital businesses. They will now enter a public ‘reflection’ period, which is expected to further clarify what kinds of investments are off-limits. The rules are not expected to go into effect for sometime yet. This new ‘order’ is quite a big deal.

In a briefing with reporters, senior administration officials said the measure was a ‘national security action, not an economic one‘. They said the U.S. remained committed to open investment.

Investment control

Controls on outbound investment are rare among advanced economies, currently present only in Japan and Korea, according to a 2022 report.

In the U.S., prior restrictions on China trade have relied on limiting sales of sensitive technology by U.S. firms and screening Chinese investments in American companies. The Trump administration had also barred investments in firms tied to China’s military.

The latest measure has widespread support in Washington, where it is seen as fixing a regulatory gap concerning financial flows that risks allowing American money and know-how to to flow into China.

International support

The U.S. has been trying to build international support for the investment curbs with some signs of success.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in May 2023 said the UK government would consider curbs on outbound investment; the European Commission put forward a proposal focused on investments in sensitive technologies earlier this summer. It is not clear how significantly the order would affect flows of investment.

China was the number two destination for foreign investment in 2022, behind the U.S., but many reports suggest money flowing into the country from the U.S. and elsewhere has dropped sharply as geopolitical relations sour. In the UK, a recent survey by the Institute of Directors found that one in five UK importers had already switched investments away from the country due to geopolitical tensions.

China has responded to the curbs with its own rules, including limits on exports of some critical minerals used to make computer chips.

Gallium and Germanium
Gallium and Germanium considered critical elements required in the production of microchips

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who visited China in July 2023 in an attempt to ease tensions, said last month she did not think the coming curbs would have a fundamental impact on the investment climate in the country.

Will these measures likely damage the U.S. in the future by escalating issues and restricting the U.S. from other shared advancements in technology – only time will tell.

Tech’ rivalry

U.S. and China are two of the world’s leading powers in artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductors, which are essential components for many AI applications such as self-driving cars, smart phones, and cloud computing. However, the two countries have also been engaged in a fierce competition and rivalry over these technologies, as they seek to gain an edge in innovation, security, and economic growth. Some of the issues that have caused tensions between U.S. and China include trade disputes, intellectual property theft, cyberattacks, human rights violations, and military expansion.

AI chips

AI semiconductors are designed to perform complex calculations and tasks that require high levels of intelligence, such as natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning.

These chips can be classified into two types: general-purpose chips that can run various AI algorithms, and specialized chips that are optimized for specific AI functions or domains.

The race is on…

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