China's Party Congress: Xi vows victory in tech battle after US chip curbs

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will speed up innovation in areas that are vital to "technology self-reliance". PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China will step up efforts to develop strategically important core technologies, President Xi Jinping has said, pledging that the country would become technologically self-sufficient.

His comments come amid a fresh push by the United States to cut off China’s access to advanced semiconductor technologies.

“We will accelerate the realisation of a high level of technological self-sufficiency,” said Mr Xi on Sunday.

“With national strategic needs as a focus, we will gather strength to carry out original and leading scientific and technological breakthroughs and resolutely win the battle of key core technologies.”

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress in Beijing, Mr Xi stressed the importance of technological and scientific supremacy to building a strong and prosperous China.

“Education, science and technology, and talent are basic and strategic pillars to comprehensively build a modern socialist country,” he told the delegates.

He also said that Beijing would accelerate the launch of a batch of major national projects that are of “strategic, big picture and long-term importance”.

While Mr Xi did not give details on what these projects would be, or explicitly name the US, his comments underscore the concern within the Chinese leadership over the need to develop indigenous technology to stand up against US pressure.

Earlier this month, Washington announced fresh sanctions restricting the export of advanced chipmaking equipment and certain high-tech semiconductors to China.

The rules will require licences for US companies to export to China chips used for supercomputers and artificial intelligence, and will also cover such chips made anywhere in the world using US equipment.

US companies supplying Chinese chipmakers with manufacturing-related equipment to produce certain advanced chips – namely logic chips under 16 nanometres,  DRAM memory chips of 18nm and below, and Nand chips with 128 layers or more – will also have to obtain a licence.

Washington said that its goal was to hobble Chinese military capabilities by cutting off access to these advanced technologies, but analysts note that the restrictions will have widespread ramifications and could arrest the development of China’s domestic chip industry.

Semiconductors are the backbone of all modern technology and are used in everything from everyday devices and appliances such as smartphones, laptops and refrigerators to military hardware including radar systems and fighter jets. But chipmaking requires complex tools – the most advanced of which are produced by US companies such as Applied Materials. 

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