The Netherlands on Wednesday said it would be blocking China from having access to chip manufacturing technology, stoking anger from Beijing, which subtly accused the European nation of siding with the U.S. in the ongoing chip war.
The Dutch trade minister told the country’s parliament via a Wednesday letter that blocking China’s access to equipment that uses ultraviolet light to etch circuits on chips was necessary on security and human rights grounds.
The minister’s letter stopped short of mentioning ASML Holdings, which is Europe’s largest tech firm and a major global supplier. Industry experts say a lack of access to ASML’s most advanced technology is a serious handicap for China’s efforts to develop its own chip industry.
ASML’s extreme-ultraviolet, or EUV, equipment uses light to etch microscopically precise circuits into silicon, allowing them to be packed more closely together. That increases their speed and reduces power demand.
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The Netherland’s move comes amid an ongoing chip war between Beijing and Washington. In October, President Biden blocked Chinese access to U.S. tools to make advanced chips that it said might be used in weapons or in equipment for the ruling Communist Party’s surveillance apparatus.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman complained that “an individual country” – a reference to the United States – was trying to “safeguard its own hegemony” by abusing national security as an excuse to “deprive China of its right to development.”
“We firmly oppose the Netherlands’s interference and restriction with administrative means of normal economic and trade exchanges between Chinese and Dutch enterprises,” said the spokeswoman, Mao Ning. “We have made complaints to the Dutch side.”
Mao appealed to the Netherlands to “safeguard the stability of the international industrial and supply chain.”
The Dutch government has prohibited ASML from exporting its most advanced machines to China since 2019, but the company is allowed to supply lower-quality systems.
Chinese manufacturers can produce low-end chips used in autos and most consumer electronics but not those used in smartphones, servers, and other high-end products.
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and U.S. President Joe Biden held talks in January on ASML’s chip machines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.