Tom Cotton, the US Senator from the state of Arkansas has raised objection to the sale of a US electronic design automation (EDA) software to a Chinese firm and asked the Joe Biden administration to add EDA tools to the the list of foundational technologies and require a license for all end-users under the ownership, influence, or control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).’ The software can be used to create computer chips for military hardware such as Hypersonic weapons.
“According to a recent report by The Washington Post, sophisticated US EDA software was sold to an ostensibly civilian PRC company, Phytium Technology. Phytium then used this software to design advanced semiconductor chips for supercomputers at a Hypersonic weapons research and testing facility run by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This facility, the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), has been on the Commerce Department’s Entity List for more than two decades. Despite Phytium’s deep ties to PRC military research and its sales to the CARDC, Phytium was only added to the Entity List after The Washington Post report. We find it deeply troubling that the Department of Commerce allowed such a critical US technology to be harnessed to design weapons targeting American service members operating in the Indo-Pacific,” wrote Tom Cotton in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
Founded in 1968, Mianyang City (Sichuan Province) based CARDC is China’s largest research and testing institute of aerodynamics in China, involved in the development of Hypersonic missile technology. China has tested DF-ZF or WU-14 Hypersonic Glide vehicle (HGV) about seven times. Chinese Medium Range Ballistic Missile Dongfeng-17 or DF-17 is said to be equipped with DF-ZF. It is first of its kind in operational service in the world. The HGY can be potentially mated with DF-21, DF-26 and DF-41 ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile). China is suspected to be developing an air launched version of the HGV which can be carried by a Chinese H-6 bomber.
China based Phytium Technology lists itself as a chip developer and aspires to be in the league of Intel. Phytium developed designs are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and some of these chips have been sold to CARDC. Taipei-listed Alchip Technologies provided the chip design services and intellectual property to Phytium and facilitated the chip manufacture by TSMC. Alchip has terminated its business with Phytium after the US Commerce Department added Phytium to the Entity List of the economic blacklist on 9th April.
Other 9 April blacklisted entities include the Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center, Sunway Microelectronics, the National Supercomputing Center in Jinan, the National Supercomputing Center in Shenzhen, the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, and the National Supercomputing Center in Zhengzhou. Sunway Microelectronics (or Shenwei Microelectronics) develops processors and the rest are research centers.
The letter also called for the Department of State and Commerce to engage the ‘Taiwanese government to develop a more effective end-user screening system to mitigate the risk of Taiwanese companies providing services and technologies to entities of concern. It is not in the security interests of Taiwan or the United States for companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corpomtion to make advanced semiconductor chips for the (Peoples Liberation Army) PLA.’