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Who’s been illegally giving China US chips for nuclear weapons lab?

Xi Jinping speaks to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 28, 2017. (Ma Zhancheng/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)
January 30, 2023

The top nuclear-weapons research institute in China has purchased computer chips made in the United States more than 10 times since 2020, despite being placed on a blacklist decades ago. The revelations come as the U.S. and China compete over the global supply chain of semiconductors and computer chips.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the China Academy of Engineering Physics, run by the Chinese Communist Party, has obtained semiconductors created by Intel Corp. and Nvidia Corp.

The Chinese state-run academy, known as CAEP, acquired the chips through resellers in China, the Journal discovered during a review of procurement documents.

CAEP was one of the first institutions in China blacklisted by the United States due to its nuclear work.

Additionally, the Journal reviewed CAEP research dating as far back as a decade that referenced using American semiconductors for a variety of reasons, including generating algorithms and analyzing data.

China has a difficult time mass producing certain American-made chips, which ranged in size from 7 nanometers to 14 nanometers, the Journal reported.

International trade lawyer Kevin Wolf, who formerly served as a top Commerce Department official, said U.S. restrictions are “insanely difficult to enforce” in transactions overseas.

The United States’ Bureau of Industry and Security said American and foreign parties must conduct due diligence to avoid letting technology get into blacklisted entities hands.  

“As mass-market products move through multiple parties in global supply chains, full visibility on ultimate end users is a large undertaking,” the Commerce Department agency said, according to the Journal.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a recent interview that the U.S. passage of the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS and Science) Act would be a turning point in the competition between the U.S. and China for global dominance over semiconductors and computer chips.

The CHIPS Act is a spending and economic incentives bill worth about $280 billion, that directs U.S. taxpayer money to invest in science and technology. The act, which passed in August, provides more than $52 billion in direct investments for semiconductor manufacturing and research, along with a 25 percent advanced manufacturing investment tax credit.

Gelsinger said that the U.S. Chips Act makes “a clear statement that ‘oh, we are going to win back the semiconductor industry, we are going to be manufacturing it.’”