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China Presses Japan to Change Course on Chip Export Curbs

China has attempted to dissuade Japan from imposing big curbs on exports of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, as part of a fast-evolving geopolitical battle over access to the world’s most advanced chips.

The move by Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang came during a visit to Beijing by his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi — the first such trip to China’s capital by a top Japanese diplomat in more than three years.

Qin told Hayashi that the US had in the past tried to “brutally suppress” Japan’s semiconductor industry and was now “repeating its old tricks” against China.

“Don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you,” Qin said according to a statement published on China’s foreign ministry website on Sunday. The “blockade” would “only stimulate China’s determination to become self-sufficient”, he added.

The comments signal Beijing is taking a more active role in the face of a US sanctions regime that since late last year has sought to restrict global semiconductor-related exports to the Chinese mainland, as relations between the two powers deteriorate sharply.

Hayashi’s visit came after Japan on Friday unveiled restrictions on exporting 23 different kinds of technology, as part of a deal reached with the US and the Netherlands.

The export controls will affect a larger number of Japanese companies than previously expected and require producers of high-end equipment to obtain licences for all regions. That would give the Japanese authorities oversight of sales of machinery to countries that could potentially produce high-end chips for military use in China and elsewhere.

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Japan has been careful not to refer publicly to the agreement between itself, the US and the Netherlands. A significant number of Japanese companies depend on China for a large part of their growth, and a growing number of chief executives have expressed concern in private that a spiralling chip war will make it harder for them to straddle the gulf between the US and China.

China has sought to discourage the Netherlands from participating in the deal, with Tan Jian, the Chinese ambassador to the country, warning last month of “consequences” if it went ahead with restrictions.

In another indication of pressure from Beijing over the restrictions, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the sector’s regulator, late on Friday launched a review into imports from Idaho-based chipmaker Micron Technologies on grounds of “national security”. Micron warned recently about the risk of losing access to key materials produced in China.

American and other foreign businesses in China have explored options for how they would maintain supply chains in the event of a severe decoupling or conflict between the powers. Officials in China have also sought to shift their tone towards the private sector as the country reopens after the lifting of its zero-Covid restrictions.

During meetings with both Qin and Chinese premier Li Qiang, Hayashi also lodged a protest over the recent detention in China of a Japanese employee of pharmaceutical group Astellas, according to Japanese officials.

Source : Financial Times