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13 Dec, 2022 11:31

Chinese micro-chip export ban includes Russia – Kommersant

Native Chinese technology is said to be reserved for Beijing's military
Chinese micro-chip export ban includes Russia – Kommersant

Chinese computer processors using original technology developed by its producers will not be exported to other nations, including Russia, business daily Kommersant reports, citing a source close to the Ministry of Digital Development. This may affect potential plans for replacing chips produced by majors like Intel with alternative products.

The reported restriction affects newer CPUs made by Loongson Technology, which use the LoongArch instruction set architecture (ISA). An ISA determines how a processor handles data, requiring adjustments of the operating system of a computer using it.

LoongArch was introduced in April 2021 with the stated goal of making the domestic Chinese computer industry less dependent on foreign technology. The first CPU series using the new architecture was launched in production later in the same year.

According to Kommersant on Tuesday, the Chinese government banned the export of LoongArch-based CPUs to other nations due to national security considerations.

“The best chipsets in China are used by the military-industrial complex, and that is the main reason why they are not available for foreign markets,” the source was quoted as saying.

A Russian industry group created to further trade with Asian nations indicated that the reported ban may be informal rather than explicit.

“As far as we know, there were no official statements so far about export of Loongson processors. In the event of the negative scenario, [we] have many ways for purchasing such products, including through smaller intermediaries,” Vitaly Mankevich, the head of the Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, told Kommersant.

Sanctions imposed on Russia by the US over the crisis in Ukraine include an embargo on semiconductors using American technologies. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo claimed in June that global exports of chips to Russia plummeted by 90% due to the restrictions.

Part of the Russian government’s response to Western trade sanctions was to allow ‘parallel import’ – import through third nations without explicit consent of the original seller – of a wide variety of goods, from clothes to nuclear reactors. Processors made by Loongson are general-use, competing with similar products designed by global heavyweights like Intel and AMD.

Purchases of consumer electronics made through the ‘parallel import’ scheme have so far been sufficient to meet Russian demand, according to Kommersant. But some companies ran pilot programs to explore the possibility of using Chinese chips instead of those from the West. Loongson was considered among the options, the Kommersant source stated.