The administration of Donald Trump recognized that extreme ultraviolet lithography systems were essential to national defense, and put pressure on the Netherlands to prevent the sale of any of the machines to China. The Biden administration has continued Trump’s policy. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Some of the tech industry’s most important machines are made next to corn fields in the Netherlands. The U.S. government is trying to make sure they don’t end up in China.
Beijing has been pressuring the Dutch government to allow its companies to buy ASML Holding ASML -0.63% NV’s marquee product: a machine called an extreme ultraviolet lithography system that is essential to making advanced microprocessors.
The one-of-a-kind, 180-ton machines are used by companies including Intel Corp. INTC -0.46% , South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and leading Apple Inc. supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to make the chips in everything from cutting-edge smartphones and 5G cellular equipment to computers used for artificial intelligence.
China wants the $150-million machines for domestic chip makers, so smartphone giant Huawei Technologies Co. and other Chinese tech companies can be less reliant on foreign suppliers. But ASML hasn’t sent a single one because the Netherlands—under pressure from the U.S.—is withholding an export license to China.
The Biden administration has asked the government to restrict sales because of national-security concerns, according to U.S. officials. The stance is a holdover from the Trump White House, which first identified the strategic value of the machine and reached out to Dutch officials.
Washington has taken direct aim at Chinese companies like Huawei and has also tried to convince foreign allies to restrict the use of Huawei gear, over spying concerns that Huawei says are unfounded. The pressure aimed at ASML and the Netherlands is different, representing a form of collateral damage in a broader U.S.-China tech Cold War.
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