In a new front in the U.S.-China tech war, President Joe Biden’s administration is facing pressure from some lawmakers to restrict American companies from working on a freely available chip technology widely used in China – a move that could upend how the global technology industry collaborates across borders.
At issue is RISC-V, pronounced “risk five,” an open-source technology that competes with costly proprietary technology from British semiconductor and software design company Arm Holdings (O9Ty.F). RISC-V can be used as a key ingredient for anything from a smartphone chip to advanced processors for artificial intelligence.
Some lawmakers – including two Republican House of Representatives committee chairmen, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Mark Warner – are urging Biden’s administration to take action regarding RISC-V, citing national security grounds.
The lawmakers expressed concerns that Beijing is exploiting a culture of open collaboration among American companies to advance its own semiconductor industry, which could erode the current U.S. lead in the chip field and help China modernize its military. Their comments represent the first major effort to put constraints on work by U.S. companies on RISC-V.
Representative Mike Gallagher, chairman of the House select committee on China, said in a statement to Reuters that the Commerce Department needs to “require any American person or company to receive an export license prior to engaging with PRC (People’s Republic of China) entities on RISC-V technology.”
Such calls to regulate RISC-V are the latest in the U.S.-China battle over chip technology that escalated last year with sweeping export restrictions that the Biden administration has told China it will update this month.