New export controls recently mandated by the Biden administration have placed hundreds of Chinese Americans at risk of losing either their jobs or their citizenship.
On Oct. 7, the U.S. government published a set of restrictions that essentially bar exports to China of American-made manufacturing equipment necessary for advanced chips production.
The White House said the initiative was aimed at thwarting China’s capabilities in producing high-end semiconductors used in commercial and military technologies.
However, a term in the restriction also extends itself to people and not just organizations or companies.
Based on the new rules, both U.S. citizens and permanent residents may be barred from supporting the “development or production” of advanced chips at Chinese factories without a license. This means the hundreds of executives and professionals with U.S. citizenship in China’s tech industry are now in potentially vulnerable positions should their former clients and suppliers begin to dwindle due to the restrictions. For some, it could mean a choice between abandoning either their citizenship or their profession.
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Semiconductor manufacturer ASML, which has U.S. offices and many U.S. employees, immediately instructed its U.S. staff to freeze their interactions with Chinese customers.
“ASML U.S. employees must refrain — either directly or indirectly — from servicing, shipping or providing support to any customers in China until further notice, while ASML is actively assessing which particular fabs are affected by this restriction,” the company recently told employees in an internal letter.
The order applies to all U.S. citizens, green-card holders and foreign nationals who live in the U.S.
“There are green-card holders considered ‘U.S. persons’ that are going to be in a bind. Do they want to stay in China and give up their U.S. person status or do they want to move?” Martijn Rasser, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told The Washington Post.
Some observers also cautioned that these restrictions could further hurt the U.S. manufacturers in the long run should China start flooding the market with cheaper, low-end chips.
An official from the Commerce Department told The Washington Post that the potential market flood is something that they are already monitoring so they can make the necessary adjustments as soon as any negative effect arises.
“That’s just something we continue to watch and if there are unintended consequences we’ll figure out what adjustments are appropriate,” the anonymous source said.
The official pointed out that the restrictions are “not designed to rupture everything” but only to “get at the Chinese capability to produce chips at a defined level.”
In August, Biden signed the Chips and Science Bill, a $280 billion measure aimed at boosting the U.S.’ technological competitiveness against China.