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The House of Representatives’ China committee has asked the chief executives of US chipmakers to testify before Congress, as the panel intensifies its scrutiny of companies with interests in China.
The committee this week sent letters to Intel, Nvidia and Micron summoning their chief executives to testify, according to several people familiar with the situation.
The move is a shift by the panel, which has not held hearings with CEOs from any industry since it was created to intensify Congress’s focus on threats from China.
Emily Kilcrease, a trade and sanctions expert at the CNAS think-tank, said the committee was “using its bully pulpit to turn up the political pressure on companies with significant operations or sales in China”.
People familiar with the situation said the bipartisan committee had become increasingly keen on having the chipmakers testify after the CEOs of Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm last year lobbied Joe Biden’s administration as it was preparing to toughen semiconductor-related export controls.
Intel, Nvidia and Micron all declined to comment on the letters, which were sent on Thursday.
“This hearing is a continuation of the committee’s oversight work on semiconductor companies and their ties to China, and specifically Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm since they came to Washington and actively tried to prevent additional semiconductor controls last summer,” said one person familiar with the decision to send the letters.
Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger and his two industry peers, Jensen Huang of Nvidia and Qualcomm’s Christiano Amon, visited the White House in July last year in an effort to convince officials that their plan to tighten restrictions on the export of cutting-edge semiconductors would cause long-term damage to the US industry. All three chipmakers obtain a significant portion of their annual revenues from sales to China.
Huang told the Financial Times last year that the US-China chip war would create “enormous” harm to the US technology industry. The semiconductor export controls had left Nvidia with “our hands tied behind our back”.
The US commerce department in October imposed new restrictions on the export of chips for artificial intelligence to China, closing a loophole that Nvidia had exploited after the first set of export controls in October 2022. The move came just weeks before President Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in San Francisco.
Micron has not come under the same kind of scrutiny from US lawmakers, mainly because the Idaho-based chipmaker does not produce the same kind of cutting-edge semiconductors as Intel and Nvidia that have potential military applications that have raised concerns in Washington.
But the lawmakers want to hear about the problems Micron has faced operating in China. The Chinese government last year banned some domestic groups from buying Micron chips, in a move widely seen in the US as retaliation for the Biden administration’s efforts to stop China from getting cutting-edge American technology.
In recent months, Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair, and his panel have stepped up scrutiny of US companies with investments or operations in China, including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. The committee has also met privately with other CEOs including Apple’sTim Cook, and top executives from Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
The decision to ask CEOs to testify will make US groups with interests in China increasingly nervous about coming under the congressional spotlight, particularly as China is expected to be a focus in the 2024 presidential election.
“After focusing on private equity and investors in China, these letters show that the committee is equally determined to push for decoupling of tech supply chains by turning up the heat on some of American’s biggest and most critical chip companies,” Kilcrease said.
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