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US lawmakers press Biden for plans on Chinese use of open chip technology

A wider bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is asking the Biden administration about its plans to respond to China's rising use of RISC-V chip design technology after Reuters last month reported on growing concerns about it in both houses of Congress. Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, including both Democrats and Republicans, have written a letter to President Joe Biden, expressing their concerns over China's increasing adoption of open-source chip technology known as RISC-V. This move comes after a Reuters report shed light on the growing unease among lawmakers regarding China's push to develop its domestic semiconductor industry. RISC-V, originally developed at the University of California, Berkeley, is an open-source instruction set architecture (ISA) that allows anyone to design their own microprocessors or license the technology. It is seen as a potential alternative to proprietary designs from companies like Intel and Arm Holdings, reducing dependency on foreign chip technology. China has been actively promoting the use of RISC-V in its semiconductor industry as part of its broader efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in critical technologies. The Chinese government has been investing heavily in research and development in this area, aiming to reduce its reliance on imported chips and gain greater control over its domestic supply chain. Lawmakers in the United States are concerned that China's increasing adoption of RISC-V could pose national security risks and undermine America's semiconductor industry. They argue that China's growing influence in the global semiconductor market could potentially threaten the U.S.'s position as a global technology leader, as well as compromise the country's strategic interests. In the letter to President Biden, lawmakers called for a comprehensive, coordinated response from the administration to address China's use of RISC-V chip design technology. They raised several key questions, including whether the U.S. government has conducted a thorough assessment of the national security implications of RISC-V, and whether it plans to restrict or monitor the export of RISC-V technology to China. The lawmakers also expressed concerns about the use of RISC-V by Chinese military entities and how it may contribute to the modernization efforts of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). They urged the Biden administration to take swift action to protect U.S. national security interests and ensure that American technology does not inadvertently aid Chinese military advancements. Furthermore, the lawmakers highlighted the need for increased investment in research and development of advanced semiconductor technologies in the United States. They emphasized the importance of supporting domestic chip manufacturing capabilities and reducing dependency on foreign sources, particularly China. The concerns voiced by lawmakers reflect a broader unease in the United States about China's relentless drive to become a global semiconductor powerhouse. China's "Made in China 2025" initiative, which aims to boost domestic self-sufficiency in key technologies, has raised alarms among U.S. policymakers who fear that China's technological advancements could pose a threat to American national security and economic interests. The Biden administration has yet to publicly respond to the lawmakers' letter, but it is clear that addressing China's use of RISC-V chip design technology will be a key issue in the U.S.'s overall strategy towards China. The United States has increasingly regarded China as its main strategic rival, and technological competition is seen as a significant component of this rivalry. The concerns over China's use of RISC-V chip design technology also come at a time when the global semiconductor industry is facing significant challenges, including a global chip shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains and increased demand for chips, leading to shortages in various industries, including automotive and consumer electronics. The U.S. government has recognized the importance of strengthening domestic semiconductor capabilities and has recently taken steps to address the global chip shortage. In February, President Biden signed an executive order to review critical supply chains, including semiconductors, and directed federal agencies to identify vulnerabilities and propose recommendations to strengthen domestic manufacturing. The Biden administration has also proposed significant investments in research and development, including $50 billion in funding for the semiconductor industry and related fields. These measures aim to enhance the U.S.'s technological competitiveness and reduce reliance on foreign sources for critical technologies. With China's increasing use of RISC-V chip design technology, the United States faces a critical challenge in maintaining its position as a global technological leader. As the Biden administration formulates its response to China's semiconductor ambitions, addressing concerns about RISC-V's implications for national security and economic interests will be paramount. The lawmakers' call for a coordinated response from the administration underscores the urgency of the situation. With bipartisan support, lawmakers are urging President Biden to take swift action to safeguard U.S. interests, protect national security, and ensure the future competitiveness of the American semiconductor industry. The United States' response to China's use of open chip technology will significantly shape the dynamics of the global semiconductor market and the broader U.S.-China technological competition.

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