China tells tech makers to stop using Micron chips, escalating row with US

BEIJING — Escalating a row with Washington over technology and security, China’s government on Sunday told users of computer equipment deemed sensitive not to buy from Micron Technology Inc., the largest U.S. memory chip maker.

Micron products contain unspecified “serious network security risks” that pose a threat to China’s information infrastructure and affect national security, the Cyberspace Administration of China said on its website. His six-sentence statement gave no details.

“Operators of critical information infrastructure in China should stop purchasing products from Micron Co.,” the agency said.

The United States, Europe and Japan are reducing Chinese access to advanced chipmaking and other technology they say could be used in weapons at a time when President Xi Jinping’s government has threatened to attack Taiwan and is increasingly assertive toward Japan and other neighbors.

Chinese officials have warned of unspecified consequences, but appear to be trying to find a way to retaliate without harming Chinese smartphone makers and other industries, as well as their efforts to develop their own processor chip suppliers.

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Micron’s formal review under China’s increasingly stringent information security laws was announced on April 4, hours after Japan joined Washington in restricting China’s access to technology to make processor chips on security grounds.

Foreign companies were shocked by police raids at two consulting firms, Bain & Co. and Capvision, and a due diligence firm, Mintz Group. Chinese authorities declined to comment on the raids, but said foreign companies are required to comply with the law.

Business groups and the US government have called on authorities to explain and enforce the newly expanded legal restrictions on information.

The announcement on Sunday was apparently an attempt to reassure foreign companies.

“China firmly supports a high level of opening to the outside world, and as long as it abides by Chinese laws and regulations, it welcomes companies and various platform products and services from different countries to enter the Chinese market,” the cyberspace agency said.

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In March, Xi accused Washington of trying to block China’s development. He called on the population to “dare to fight”.

Still, Beijing has been slow to respond, perhaps to avoid the Chinese industry that assembles most of the world’s smartphones, tablets and other consumer electronics. More than 300 billion dollars worth of foreign chips are imported every year.

Beijing is spending billions of dollars to speed up chip development and reduce the need for foreign technology. Chinese foundries can supply cheaper chips used in cars and home appliances, but they do not support smartphones, artificial intelligence and other advanced applications.

The conflict has prompted warnings that the world could split, or split into separate spheres with incompatible technology standards, meaning computers, smartphones and other products from one region wouldn’t work in another. This would increase costs and could slow down innovation.

US-China relations are at their lowest level in decades amid security disputes, Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong and Muslim ethnic minorities, territorial disputes and China’s multibillion-dollar trade surplus.

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