Apr 21, 2024 - Business

Gina Raimondo: China microchip threat a national security issue

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during her interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," broadcast Sunday evening.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during her interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," broadcast Sunday evening. Screenshot: CBS News/"60 Minutes"

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in an interview airing Sunday she's focused on preventing the governments of China and Russia from obtaining U.S.-designed advanced microchips due to national security concerns.

The big picture: "If you think about national security today in 2024, it's not just tanks and missiles; it's technology. It's semiconductors. It's AI. It's drones," she told CBS' "60 Minutes." "And the Commerce Department is at the red-hot center of technology."

Driving the news: Raimondo told CBS' Lesley Stahl that the Commerce Department had stopped all semiconductor chips from being sold to Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

  • "Every drone, every missile, every tank has semiconductors in them," she said.
  • Raimondo said U.S. export controls had hurt the ability of Putin's forces to conduct the war and noted she'd heard of "Russians taking semiconductors out of refrigerators, out of dishwashers."

Yes, but: Stahl noted that Chinese officials had warned the Commerce Department's ban prohibiting any company in the world from selling products with U.S.-designed chips in them to Russia "could trigger an escalating trade war."

  • Stahl put it to Raimondo that "trade with China accounts for 750,000 U.S. jobs."
  • "We want to trade with China on the vast majority of goods and services. But on those technologies that affect our national security, no," Raimondo replied.
  • "We have the most sophisticated semiconductors in the world. China doesn't," she added. "We've out-innovated China."

Between the lines: U.S. officials have been increasingly concerned that Beijing is using American technology to advance its military ambitions — and advanced chips are seen as crucial to the Chinese government's development of new weapons, per Axios' Nathan Bomey.

  • Most advanced chips used to train AI are designed in the U.S. and built with tools from allied countries, Axios Dave Lawler notes.
  • The Biden administration has been expanding its efforts to keep highly advanced chips out of China, and thus keep Chinese AI firms behind the curve.

Go deeper: Gina Raimondo's delicate dance in China

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