China’s Washington envoy warns of retaliation against further US tech curbs

Xie Feng, China's new ambassador to the U.S., arrives at JFK airport in New York City
Xie Feng, China’s new ambassador to the U.S., addresses the media as he arrives at JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 23, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) – China does not want a trade or tech war but will definitely respond if the United States imposes more curbs on its chip sector, China’s ambassador to Washington said on Wednesday.

Ambassador Xie Feng told the Aspen Security Forum China did not shy away from competition, but the way it was defined by the United States was not fair. He highlighted existing U.S. prohibitions on Chinese imports of equipment to make advanced chips.

“This is like … restricting the other side to wear outdated swimwear in a swimming contest, while you yourself (are) wearing a Speedo,” he said.

Xie referred to reports that Washington is considering an outbound investment review mechanism, and further prohibition on the export of AI chips to China.

“The Chinese government cannot simply sit idly by. There’s a Chinese saying that we will not … make provocations, but we will not flinch from provocations,” he said.

Advertisement · Scroll to continue

“China, definitely … will make our response. But definitely it’s not our hope to have a tit for tat. We don’t want … a trade war, technological war, we want to say goodbye to the Iron Curtain as well as the Silicon Curtain.”

The Biden administration has been finalizing an executive order that would restrict certain investment in sectors including advanced semiconductors, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, and a senior administration official said the aim was to wrap up reviews of it by Labor Day.

Advertisement · Scroll to continue

China targeted U.S. chip maker Micron Technology after Washington imposed a series of export controls on American components and chipmaker tools to ensure that they are not used to advance China’s military capabilities.

The Cybersecurity Administration of China said in May that Micron failed its security review and barred operators of key domestic infrastructure from purchasing its products.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last week at the end of a four-day trip to China she had spoken with Chinese counterparts about the proposed order, and said that any investment curbs would be “highly targeted, and clearly directed, narrowly at a few sectors where we have specific national security concerns.”

Advertisement · Scroll to continue

She said the order would enacted in a transparent way, through a rule-making process that would allow public input.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.