Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California told Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Tuesday that she was “bushwhacked” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during her recent visit to China.
Issa questioned Raimondo during a hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology regarding a review of activity under the CHIPS and Science Act, a law that authorizes subsidies to incentivize domestic production of semiconductor computer chips. During his questioning, Issa suggested that Raimondo’s visit provided the CCP with an opportunity to embarrass the United States after Chinese firm Huawei announced a new 5G smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro, which the U.S. had tried to thwart using export controls.
“When you were in China just days ago, you were bushwhacked, to say the least, by the launch of a 5G phone and proof that China has achieved seven-nanometer capability. That wasn’t an accident. They chose you as an important symbol of their accomplishment,” Issa told Raimondo. “There are tools that are at your disposal, clearly one of them [is] to stop the export of technology that allows exactly what has just occurred.”
The Mate 60 Pro features a silicon chip with transistors that are seven nanometers in length, the lower length an indicator of their high computing power making it fully compatible with 5G wireless networks. It was previously believed that China lacked the technology to produce such chips, following a U.S.-led global campaign to deny exports to China of the technology, according to Bloomberg News.
“Most people didn’t foresee that China could catch up in this area so quickly,” said Steven Leung, the executive director of UOB Kay Hian Hong Kong, a stock brokerage firm, to Bloomberg.
“This chip likely could not be produced without US technology and thus SMIC may have violated the Department of Commerce’s Foreign Direct Product Rule,” said Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party, according to Reuters.
The release of the phone during Raimondo’s visit to China, between Aug. 27 and 30, was followed by Chinese social media mocking her with “memes” suggesting that U.S. export controls were ineffective, according to Polygraph.info.
“My question to you is three of the top ten [U.S.] patent recipients last year were Chinese. Only one was American. The reality is that Huawei, a company that cannot do business in the United States, continues to receive, often clandestinely, royalties because they are in fact patenting the technology,” Issa said. “Your administration has to find a way to block [Huawei patents] in a different way … through real innovation and through what I would call AI blocking, which is coming up with patents that envision things that they haven’t really reduced to practice[, but] will be used against us to thwart us.”
“We’re trying to use every single tool at our disposal,” Raimondo responded. “I was upset when I saw the Huawei announcement, [though] we don’t have any evidence that they can manufacture seven-nanometer [chips] at scale.”
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