BEIJING: China’s cybersecurity watchdog said Sunday US chipmaker Micron had failed a national security probe and told “operators of critical information infrastructure” to stop purchasing its products. The probe was the latest escalation in the ongoing chip war between the United States and China, with Washington looking to cut off Beijing’s access to the most advanced semiconductors. It also came as China tightened the enforcement of its national security and anti-espionage laws.

Micron’s products “have relatively serious potential network security issues, which pose a major security risk to China’s critical information infrastructure supply chain and affect China’s national security”, the cybersecurity administration said in a statement. “Operators of critical information infrastructure in China should stop purchasing Micron products.” Beijing launched a cybersecurity review in March of products sold in the country by Micron, one of the world’s major chip manufacturers.

The chip war between Beijing and Washington escalated last year when the United States imposed restrictions on China’s access to high-end chips, chipmaking equipment and software used to design semiconductors. Washington cited national security concerns, and said it wanted to prevent “sensitive technologies with military applications” from being acquired by China’s armed forces and intelligence services. The United States imposed targeted controls on the ability of domestic industry leaders to sell their products overseas. It has also sought to persuade key allies to follow suit.

The Netherlands and Japan — both leading manufacturers of specialized semiconductor technology equipment — have recently announced new restrictions on exporting certain products, but without naming China. Beijing has slammed the moves as “US bullying tactics” and accused Washington of “technological terrorism”, vowing that such controls will only strengthen its resolve to achieve self-reliance in the sector.

The development of a robust domestic semiconductor industry has been a longstanding goal of the Chinese government, which has invested billions of dollars in domestic chip firms. Chips are the lifeblood of the modern global economy, powering everything from cars to smartphones, and they are forecast to become a $1 trillion industry globally by 2030. Nowhere is their essential nature more visible than in China, the world’s second-largest economy, which relies on a steady supply of foreign chips for its huge electronics manufacturing base. In 2021, China imported semiconductors worth $430 billion—more than it spent on oil. — AFP