Beijing is furious. China’s leadership knows that it is losing the race for the future of technology. It is a race that could make or break the country’s super power status. And Washington is determined to do everything possible to slow it down.
Semiconductor chips are the tiny brains that power our technological world, from cars and cellphones to fighter jets and advanced missile systems. They’re so complex that no country can produce a single chip by itself. In years past, this was a good thing. Governments understood that technology is not a zero-sum game — that innovation in one place can push the whole world forward. This understanding created stability; an attack on any part of the globally dispersed semiconductor supply chain can bring the world to a standstill.
But that’s all changed now that the US and China are locked in a tech cold war. In this war, chips are weapons.
China has spent tens of billions of dollars to catch up to the most elite chipmakers over the past few decades, a race that has intensified under President Xi Jinping. But development has stalled. One of China’s vaunted chip makers, Tsinghua Unigroup, has gone bankrupt. The men who ran the industry are caught in a never-ending corruption probe. And the US is intent on blocking China’s access to the foundational technologies that make chip production possible.