US lawmakers press Biden for plans on Chinese use of open chip technology

U.S. lawmakers have asked the Biden administration about its plans to repond to China’s rising use of RISC-V a free open-source chip design technology  that competes with costly proprietary technology

November 02, 2023 05:16 pm | Updated 05:16 pm IST - SAN FRANCISCO

U.S. firms such as Qualcomm and Alphabet’s Google have embraced RISC-V, but so too have many Chinese companies.

U.S. firms such as Qualcomm and Alphabet’s Google have embraced RISC-V, but so too have many Chinese companies. | Photo Credit: Reuters

A wider bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is asking the Biden administration about its plans to respond to China's rising use of RISC-V chip design technology after Reuters last month reported on growing concerns about it in both houses of Congress.

RISC-V, pronounced "risk five," is a free open-source technology that competes with costly proprietary technology from British semiconductor and software design company Arm Holdings and Intel Corp. It can be used as a key part of anything from a smartphone chip to advanced processors for artificial intelligence.

U.S. firms such as Qualcomm and Alphabet's Google have embraced RISC-V, but so too have many Chinese companies.

Reuters last month reported that at least four influential U.S. lawmakers view Chinese use of the technology as a potential national security threat because RISC-V is not captured by the sweeping export controls the U.S. has imposed on sending chip technology to China.

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Now, a broader group of 18 lawmakers that includes five Democrats is asking the Biden administration for how it plans to prevent China "from achieving dominance in ... RISC-V technology and leveraging that dominance at the expense of U.S. national and economic security," according to a letter the group sent to Raimondo and seen by Reuters.

The lawmakers include the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat from a select committee on China in the House of Representatives as well as Democratic lawmakers from New Jersey, Florida, Michigan and Indiana. They also asked the Biden administration about how it might apply an existing executive order to require U.S. companies to get an export license before working with Chinese companies on RISC-V technology.

"While the benefits of open-source collaboration on RISC-V promise to be significant for advancement and development of the U.S. semiconductor industry, it can only be realized when contributors are working with the sole aim of improving the technology, and not aiding the technological goals and geopolitical interests of" China, the group of lawmakers wrote in the letter.

A Commerce Department spokesperson said Raimondo had received the letter and would respond through the appropriate channels.

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