US Allegedly Stopped ASML’s Chipmaking Machine Shipments to China Ahead of Ban

NVIDIA may have found a way to bypass US export restrictions on China, but ASML, the Dutch company behind the key chipmaking equipment, seems to have little say in the matter. According to Bloomberg, the Biden administration reached out to ASML “weeks before” the January 1, 2024 export ban deadline, requesting the firm to stop some pre-scheduled shipments of its deep ultraviolet lithography (DUV) machines to its Chinese customers. This came after it was revealed that SMIC used ASML tech to produce Huawei’s latest flagship processor, the 7nm HiSilicon Kirin 9000S.

Apart from DUV machines, ASML also makes extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines for making more advanced chips, but the Dutch government never allowed the sale of EUV equipment to China, it did grant licenses to the firm for shipping DUV machines to China until the end of 2023.

Reportedly, things changed when the US government, specifically National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, allegedly contacted the Dutch government regarding some of ASML’s final shipments to China. As a result, “shipments of a limited number of machines” were impacted.

Although China could source lithography machines from elsewhere, they tended to be of lower quality. Additionally, the US, Japan, and the Netherlands had collaborated on limiting China’s access to such equipment. However, China has since worked to strengthen its own silicon ecosystem, surprising the world with its homegrown 7nm mobile 5G chip. It’s no surprise that the US was eager to stop ASML’s final DUV shipments to China, but doing so before the agreed deadline may be a questionable move.