On Friday, the US announced a new set of semiconductor export restrictions aiming at cutting China off from accessing certain high-end chips and further limiting the country’s ability to try to make advanced chips themselves.
The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security of the US issued nine new rules, detailing that new rules aims to impose export controls on advanced chips, transactions for supercomputer centers, and transactions involving certain entities on the Entity List. In addition, the new rules also impose new controls on certain semiconductor manufacturing equipment and on transactions for certain integrated circuit end uses.
These rules will be less strict on firms “owned by multinationals,” according to the file. Twenty-eight Chinese entities on the US’s Entity List are affected by the expanded rules, most of which are supercomputer institutions and AI firms. Some new rules take effect immediately, with others effective before Oct. 21.
The US’s Bureau of Industry and Security adds 31 new Chinese entities to an “Unverified List,” including major Chinese memory chip maker YMTC. Firms that tend to export or transit products listed on the Commerce Control List to China now have to ask permission from the US. Entities listed on the Unverified List are one step away from being added to the Entity List if they do not meet the US’s requirements within 60 days.
These new rules follow a months-long effort of the US trying to contain China’s ability to obtain advanced chips and chipmaking tools. Since July, the Biden administration has barred Chinese chipmaking firms from acquiring tools for 14 nm and more advanced chips, focusing heavily on central logic chips like CPUs and GPUs. Since August, the US has also considered broader restorations in fields such as memory chips as major Chinese chipmakers YMTC and SMIC continue to develop their own chips.
Below, TechNode summarizes the key moments from the US’s attempts to hobble China’s semiconductor industry since July.
July 6 – Lithography machinery
- US authorities talked to their Dutch counterparts to ban the Netherlands-based chip equipment supplier ASML from selling older deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machinery to China (the equipment can be used to make chips as advanced as 5 nm), people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
- The US also pressured Japan to stop shipping lithography equipment to China, Bloomberg cites an unnamed source as saying.
July 30 – Tools to make 14 nm chips
- The US further restricted China’s access to chipmaking equipment, expanding from previous restrictions of tools that make 10 nm chips to those involved in producing 14 nm chips.
- Two primary semiconductor suppliers – Lam Research and KLA Corporation – said that the US Department of Commerce had notified them not to ship products to mainland China for making 14 nm or more advanced chip nodes.
- People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that all US equipment makers had received notification of the ban in the past two weeks.
August 2 – Memory chips
- The US was considering containing Chinese memory chipmaker YMTC by banning exports of equipment to make storage chips with more than 128 layers, Reuters reported.
- Unnamed sources from two leading US-based chip firms, Research Corp and Applied Materials, told Reuters that the ban could also affect other chipmakers like Samsung and SK Hynix, which operate factories in mainland China.
- According to the sources, discussions were still in the early stages, and no draft regulations have yet been filed.
- Layer number in storage chips is as essential a metric as logic chips’ build processes. YMTC managed to develop 128-layer storage chips in 2020 and put them into volume production a year later.
August 12 – EDA software
- The US announced a new export ban on electronics design automation (EDA) software for China’s advanced chipmaking.
- The ban specified that US firms should not provide EDA for 3 nm or more advanced chips to mainland China.
- The ban’s immediate effect on China was limited but might curb further development in the future, an analyst told Caixin.
August 31 – High-performance GPU chips
- US officials issued a new ban on the export of high-performance GPU chips to China, concerned at their apparent use by the Chinese military, according to GPU giant Nvidia’s SEC filing.
- Nvidia’s major rival AMD told Reuters that the firm has also been notified of the new ban and a computing card produced by the firm will be affected.
September 21 – Nvidia looked to bypass US ban, providing alternative GPU to China
- Major GPU maker Nvidia told Caixin and other media outlets that they will supply alternative GPU products with their latest Hopper architecture to Chinese clients, bypassing the US ban and ensuring the product can meet the new regulations.
- The firm claimed that the new alternatives can fulfill most of the needs in the Chinese market and that they will try to apply for a license from the US if Chinese clients need the banned products.