The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday added five Chinese companies to its Entity List, barring U.S. exports to the country’s supercomputing industry that is tied to military developments.
The move comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing ahead of a planned meeting this week between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the G-20 meeting. It also follows a similar listing last month of networking equipment and mobile phone giant Huawei Technologies Co.
Sugon and the Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology, which were both added on Monday, and the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) lead China’s development of exascale high-performance computing, according to the Commerce Department. A supercomputer solves complex problems requiring billions or trillions of calculations by using connected processors.
NUDT was added to the Entity list in February 2015 because U.S.-origin technology was believed to be used in nuclear explosive simulation activity, the department said.
The mission of Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology is to support China’s military modernization, according to the Commerce Department, and it is owned by the 56th Research Institute of the General Staff of China's People's Liberation Army.
The U.S. also listed Sugon, which “has publicly acknowledged a variety of military end uses and end users of its high-performance computers,” the department said. It is the majority-owner of Higon, also added Monday to the Entity List. Higon’s business activities include integrated circuits, electronic information systems, software development and computer system integration, according to the Commerce Department.
Higon, in turn, majority owns Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, which designs architecture computer chips for network information servers, the Commerce Department said. It was also added to the list on Monday, along with Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology, which is engaged in integrated circuit production and has a substantial ownership share by Higon through a second joint venture, according to the department.
China and the U.S. are competing for dominance in the field of supercomputing, with two U.S. machines at the top of a recent ranking of the top 500 supercomputers by Top 500, and a Chinese computer holding third place. China claims the largest number of supercomputing systems in the top 500 machines, with 219; the U.S. has 116.
Huawei, meanwhile, has vowed to fight the Entity List designation and is getting some help from its U.S. suppliers, according to a Reuters report. Separately, the company sued the Commerce Department on Friday over the seizure of equipment in 2017 by U.S. officials who probed whether the items needed a license for export to China. To the best of the company’s knowledge, the lawsuit said, “the equipment...remains in a bureaucratic limbo in an Alaskan warehouse.”