WASHINGTON — When Russian forces invaded Ukraine nearly five months ago, the Biden administration led dozens of governments to ban the export of advanced technology to Russia to hamper its economic and military development.
Now, the US government is using the lessons learned from those actions to extend restrictions on exports to China and other countries in cases where companies or groups might threaten US national security or violate human rights, current and former US officials say. President Biden and his aides describe China as the United States’ greatest long-term rival, edging out Russia.
Efforts include expanding the conditions under which so-called export controls will be imposed and involving partner countries. It also aims to redefine technologies considered sensitive or critical and potentially useful to militaries and security agencies — to include things like artificial intelligence, for example.
In an effort to develop a strategy on China, US officials are not only looking at traditional military uses of the technologies, but also considering the roles of Chinese companies in creating a surveillance state or building security infrastructure and using forced labor camps for ethnic repression. Minorities in regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.
Estevez, chief of the Bureau of Industry and Security, the unit in the Commerce Department that oversees export controls, said last month at an event organized by the Center for a New American Security.
“We need to ensure that the United States retains the excess technological capacity,” he said. “In other words, China cannot build capabilities that they will then use against us, or against their neighbors for that matter, in any kind of conflict.”
US officials say the use of export controls on Russia may be the greatest success to date in a sweeping campaign of economic punishment against President Vladimir Putin and his military. The United States and its partners have imposed widespread restrictions on sending semiconductors, aircraft parts, oil and gas industry equipment and other goods to Russia, in an attempt to cripple the Russian military and its strategic industries.
With China, efforts have been more targeted. Officials say their goal is not to weaken the broader Chinese economy, but rather to limit China’s access to technologies that would contribute to its military and scientific progress. US officials say that in and of itself could help prevent an armed conflict.
“My goal is to prevent China from being able to use this technology to develop its military and modernize its military,” Mr. Estevez, who is also a former Pentagon official, told reporters last week at a Commerce Department policy conference in Washington, referring to the advanced developments. Semiconductor chips, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.
But China is the world’s second largest economy, and any trade restrictions against it will carry much greater risks than those imposed on Russia. US executives warn that extensive export controls could severely disrupt global trade, and are also prompting China to impose its own restrictions on some of the important products it supplies to the United States and other countries, including some metals.
A better understanding of the Russo-Ukrainian war
The widespread use of controls could erode US technological leadership and market dominance in the long run by encouraging foreign customers to find other sources of supply.
But Gina Raimondo, the trade secretary, declared at the policy conference that export controls “are at the center of the concern about how best to protect our democracies.”
she Controls effect confirmed on Russia, saying that global semiconductor exports to the country have fallen by 90 percent, and that its fleet of commercial aircraft could soon collapse. “We also know that another authoritarian regime – China – is closely monitoring our response,” she added.
The Biden administration on Tuesday put five Chinese companies on an export blacklist to continue supporting Russia’s defense industry. It was the first time the US government has taken action against Chinese companies to help Russia since the war in Ukraine began in February, although US officials say the Chinese government and most companies appear to be complying with US-led sanctions.
Even before these actions, the Biden administration had doubled down on the Trump administration’s policy of exercising export controls as a bludgeon against Chinese companies.
In 2018, Congress passed a law requiring the Commerce Department to expand its controls on sensitive US technologies flowing abroad.
Although some lawmakers say the government has moved too slowly on this, administrations under both the Trump administration and the Biden administration have aggressively used a more targeted tool, called the Entity List, which cuts off foreign companies and organizations from US technology unless they are American. Suppliers obtain a license to sell the goods to them.
The Trump administration has put Huawei and SMIC, the two prominent Chinese technology companies, on that list.
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden’s Department of Commerce was adding China-based companies and institutions to the list at a much faster rate than those in any other country. Of the 475 foreign entities added since January 2021, 107 are in China, according to a new count of data provided by the agency to the New York Times. By contrast, the administration put 23 Russia-based entities on the list before the war — and then quickly added 252 entities, as well as placing broader restrictions on entire classes of technological goods.
The administration has also blacklisted companies in Pakistan, Belarus, Myanmar, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Britain, but these numbers are much lower.
Most of the China-based entities listed during the Biden administration have been judged by US officials as playing military roles or participating in Systematic violations of human rights. some have suspicious relationships With Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, countries with nuclear programs the United States is trying to constrain, US officials say. A few are related to aggressive actions in the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
The US has also expanded its export restrictions beyond US borders. Companies anywhere in the world have been banned from exporting some items if they are made with US technology to some of the listed entities, including Russian military groups and Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company. The United States can also restrict exports to listed entities of foreign goods that contain certain quantities of American products.
“One of the lessons from using this tool with Huawei is that it can be a very powerful mechanism,” said Samm Sacks. researcher On Technology Policy at Yale Law School and the New America. “It attracts a lot of third-country suppliers.”
Some US lawmakers say that more restrictions on the technology would be an effective tool to wield them against Beijing, and that threats to expand those controls may help deter potential hostilities by Chinese leaders toward Taiwan. But some analysts warn of possible retaliation from China.
“As the United States continues to exploit the external extension of its regulations, the growing threat of a regulatory ‘arms race’, particularly with China, is adding to an already tense business environment,” Janet Chu, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategy and International Studies, said. Wrote in March.
“The nature of today’s export controls and sanctions threatens to undermine the effectiveness of export controls and leave policymakers with limited options,” she added.
Although the Chinese government condemns Washington’s use of sanctions, it has increasingly used its own form of economic sanctions to harm countries that take positions at odds with Beijing’s political views. Recent targets include Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway. When Lithuania allowed Taiwan last year to open a representative office in its capital, China cut off its exports to Lithuania as well as imports.
In June 2021, Beijing enacted the “Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law”, which aims to punish companies and individuals who comply with foreign sanctions against China. The Chinese government has an export control law that it can use widely.
China is still behind the United States in many technological areas but is catching up quickly. In some areas — biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and 5G communications, for example — China is at or near the lead. It is set to overtake the United States in national spending on research and development within the next several years.
“Scientific and technological innovation has become the main battlefield of the international strategy competition, and the competition around the leading heights of science and technology is unprecedentedly fierce,” Chinese President Xi Jinping He said in a letter In May 2021.
Biden administration officials say Russia’s export controls show that the strength of U.S. actions comes from coordination with partner nations.
At Biden’s December 2021 Democracy Summit, the United States, Australia, Denmark, and Norway announced that they would begin building a new program of export control policy to limit the transfer of technologies to authoritarian governments implicated in human rights abuses. The United States has other discussions in its trade and technology dialogue with the European Union.
The most prominent global export system now, system Wassnar orderIt aims to control sales of technology that can be used for military as well as commercial purposes, but critics say it has drawbacks, including that Russia is a member.
Mr. Estevez said last month that any new multilateral system of export controls would have to be done with partners so that many countries impose the same restrictions. “As anyone knows, if you block half of the river, the water still flows,” he added.
But Martin Chorzimba, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, cautioned that many countries with deep trade ties with China could resist efforts to impose broad export restrictions on the country.
“I don’t think you’ll see the level of consensus that sanctions will have on Russia, that it might split the alliance,” he said.
And the prospect of more restrictions on China is already causing some concern among American business.
Myron Brilliant, executive vice president at the US Chamber of Commerce, said the business community has been “consistent in its support of the multilateral use of sanctions against Russia given that country’s unwarranted and brutal invasion of Ukraine,” but that views on China have been “more complex and subtle.”
“The business community has deep concerns about China’s predatory policies and market distortion, yet we must also recognize that the two largest economies are highly complementary,” he said. “So the effect of broad separation or broad sanctions on China would be more destabilizing.”
Julian E. Barnes Contribute to the preparation of reports.