Global power politics will shroud the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and highlight rising tension between Beijing and Washington.
Behind the heavily-choreographed scenes of Xi Jinping’s unprecedented third term as president, there is a high-tech horror show unfolding.
Last week, the United States unveiled export restrictions to curb China’s high-tech industry. The move is aimed at plunging the Chinese Artificial Intelligence, or AI, industry into the “dark ages.”
“The United States is saying to China, ‘AI technology is the future; we and our allies are going there – and you can’t come,’” Gregory Allen, the director of the AI governance project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said as reported by Wired.
- The virtual export ban will have a massive impact on China’s technology sector.
- It will curb the ability of Chinese companies to “obtain or manufacture advanced computer chips.”
- It will also stifle state-backed AI programs and stall China’s military supercomputer initiative, used for building the next generation of weapons such as hypersonic missiles.
- The timing coincides with Beijing’s threat to invade the democratic island of Taiwan.
- Leading chip players, including Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung, risk being affected by the ban.
Between the lines: “The Biden administration believes that the hype around the transformative potential of AI in military applications is real,” Allen, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.
Systems check: “The United States also has a pretty good understanding of which computer chips are going into Chinese military AI systems, and they are American, which is viewed as unacceptable,” he added.
Delve deeper: The decision came just days before President Joe Biden’s administration released a 48-page National Security white paper on October 12. It was aimed at China.
Big picture: Beijing has yet to react to Washington’s power play. Weaponizing rare earths crucial for the semiconductor industry could be a possible move as China controls the refining of these precious metals.
Fraught with risks: “But even rare earths may not be the weapon against the US that [President] Xi may think it is, as using them to retaliate will also worry other countries [and trading partners],” China watcher Bill Bishop, the publisher of the Sinocism Newsletter, said.
China Factor comment: Still, the clock is ticking for Beijing to react. Not that you would know it if you clicked on to state-run China Daily’s home page. Prominently placed was “Xi’s book on governance published in Icelandic.” Thrilling.