US intends to expand export bans on China for security and human rights reasons

WASHINGTON. When Russian troops invaded Ukraine nearly five months ago, the Biden administration, led by dozens of governments, banned export of advanced technologies Russia to slow down its economic and military development.

The US government is now using the lessons learned from those actions to expand restrictions on exports to China and other countries where companies or groups could threaten US national security or violate human rights, current and former US officials say. President Biden and his aides call China greatest long term rival USA overtaking Russia.

Efforts include broadening the circumstances under which so-called export controls will be introduced and engaging partner countries. It also aims to redefine what technologies are considered sensitive or critical and potentially useful to military and security agencies, including things like artificial intelligence, for example.

In trying to strategize with China, US officials are considering not only the traditional military use of technology, but also the role of Chinese companies in creating an observation state or building a security infrastructure and using forced labor camps to suppress ethnic minorities in regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.

“As China has become more aggressive, more militant, more active in its technology sector, the importance of managing relations with China through export controls has increased,” said Alan F. Esteves, head of the Bureau of Industry and Security, the unit in the Commerce Department responsible for export controls. said last month at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security.

“We must ensure that the US maintains its technological edge,” he said. “In other words, China cannot create capabilities that they will then use against us or against their neighbors, for that matter, in any conflict.”

U.S. officials say the use of export controls on Russia is perhaps the biggest success in the sweeping campaign. economic punishment against President Vladimir Putin and his military. USA and their partners introduced broad restrictions about sending semiconductors, aircraft parts, equipment for the oil and gas industry and other goods to Russia to harm the Russian military and its strategic industries.

With China, efforts were more focused. Officials say their goal is not to weaken China’s economy as a whole, but to limit China’s access to technology that will advance its military and scientific advances. This alone could help prevent armed conflict, US officials say.

“My goal is to prevent China from using this technology to develop its military, to modernize its military,” he said. Estevez, also a former Pentagon official, told reporters last week at a Commerce Department policy conference in Washington, D.C., referring to advanced semiconductor chips, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

But China is the world’s second-largest economy, and any trade restrictions on it would come with far greater risks than those imposed on Russia. U.S. leaders warn that broad export controls could severely hurt global trade and provoke China to impose its own restrictions on some of the critical products it supplies to the United States and other countries, including certain minerals.

And widespread use of control could undermine US technology leadership and market dominance in the long run, prompting foreign customers to seek other sources of supply.

But Gina Raimondo, the trade secretary, told a political conference that export controls “are at the center of how we best protect our democracies.”

She is stressed the impact of controls against Russia, saying that the country’s global semiconductor exports had fallen by 90 percent and that its fleet of commercial aircraft could soon be destroyed. “We also know that another autocratic regime, China, is closely monitoring our response,” she added.

Biden administration on Tuesday put five Chinese companies in the export blacklist for continued support of the Russian military-industrial sector. It was the first time the US government has taken action against Chinese companies for helping Russia since the war in Ukraine began in February, although US officials say the Chinese government and most companies appear to be complying with US-imposed sanctions.

Even before these actions, the Biden administration doubled Trump administration policy using export controls as a cudgel against Chinese companies.

In 2018, Congress passed a law Department of Commerce requirement expand its control over confidential US technology that is leaking abroad.

While some lawmakers say the government is moving too slowly on the issue, the Trump and Biden administration department is aggressively using a more targeted tool called the Entity List, which cuts off foreign companies and organizations from US technology, as long as their US suppliers are licensed to sell to them. goods.

The Trump administration has included two well-known Chinese tech companies Huawei and SMIC on the list.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Biden’s Department of Commerce added Chinese companies and organizations to the list at a much faster rate than companies and organizations from any other country. Of the 475 foreign organizations added since January 2021, 107 are based in China, according to new data provided by The New York Times. By contrast, the administration listed 23 Russian businesses before the war and then quickly added 252, in addition to imposing broader restrictions on entire categories of technology goods.

The administration has also blacklisted companies based in Pakistan, Belarus, Myanmar, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and the UK, but far fewer.

Most of the China-based organizations listed under the Biden administration have been deemed by US officials to have a military role or are involved in the war effort. systematic violations of human rights. Some have suspicious links with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, countries with nuclear programs that the United States is trying to contain, US officials say. Some of them are associated with aggressive actions in disputed territory in the South China Sea.

The United States has also extended its export restrictions far beyond the US. It banned companies anywhere in the world from exporting certain goods if they are made using US technology to certain listed entities, including Russian military groups and the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei. The United States may also restrict listed organizations from exporting foreign goods that contain a certain amount of US products.

“One of the lessons of using this tool with Huawei is that it can be quite a powerful mechanism,” said Samm Sachs, Researcher in Technology Policy at Yale Law School and New America. “It’s capturing a lot of third-country suppliers.”

Some U.S. lawmakers say further technological restrictions will be a powerful tool against Beijing, and that threats to expand that control could help contain potential military action by Chinese leaders towards Taiwan. But some analysts warn of possible Chinese retaliation.

“As the United States continues to use the extraterritorial scope of its rules, the growing threat of a regulatory arms race, especially with China, is exacerbating an already challenging business environment,” said Jeanette Chu, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies. and international studies, wrote in March.

“Today’s tit-for-tat nature of export controls and sanctions risks undermining the effectiveness of export controls and leaving policymakers with limited options,” she added.

While the Chinese government denounces Washington’s use of sanctions, it is increasingly using its own form of economic punishment to hurt countries that take positions that run counter to Beijing’s political views. Recent goals include Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway. When Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in its capital last year, China stopped export to Lithuania as well as imports.

In June 2021, Beijing passed the “Foreign Sanctions Control Law” aimed at punishing companies and individuals that comply with foreign sanctions against China. And the Chinese government has an export control law that can be widely used.

China lags behind the US in many technological areas, but is quickly catching up. In some areas – such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence and 5G communications – China is at or near the forefront. And it’s set to surpass the United States in national research and development spending over the next few years.

“Scientific and technological innovation has become the main battlefield in the international strategic competition, and the competition around the commanding heights of science and technology is unprecedentedly fierce,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping. said in a speech in May 2021.

Biden administration officials say the export controls imposed on Russia show that the strength of American action comes from coordination with partner countries.

At the Biden Democratic Summit in December 2021, the United States, Australia, Denmark and Norway announced the start of construction new export control policy program limit the use of technology by authoritarian governments that violate human rights. The United States is in other negotiations in its trade and technology dialogue with the European Union.

The world’s most famous export mode at present, Wassenaar arrangementis intended to control sales of technology that can be used for both military and commercial purposes, but critics say it has drawbacks, including Russia being a member.

Any new multilateral export control system should be built with partners so that many countries impose the same restrictions, Mr. C. Esteves said last month. “As everyone knows, if you block half the river, the water still flows,” he added.

But Martin Chorzempa, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, warned that many countries with close trade ties to China may resist attempts to introduce broad export controls in the country.

“I don’t think you will see the level of unanimity that sanctions on Russia will have, so it could lead to a split in the coalition,” he said.

And the possibility of further restrictions on China is already causing some concern among US business leaders.

Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce, said that the business community “strongly supported the multilateral application of sanctions against Russia, given the country’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine,” but that views on China were conflicting. “more complex and nuanced”.

“The business community is deeply concerned about China’s predatory and market-distorting policies, but we must also recognize that the two largest economies are very integrated,” he said. “Therefore, the impact of a wide disengagement or extensive sanctions on China will be much more destabilizing.”

Julian E. Barnes made a report.