US lawmakers angry after Huawei unveils laptop with new Intel AI chip

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republican lawmakers criticized the Biden administration on Friday after sanctioned Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei this week unveiled a laptop powered by an Intel AI chip.

The United States placed Huawei on a trade restriction list in 2019 for violating sanctions against Iran, part of a broader effort to hamper Beijing’s technological advancements. Getting on the list means the company’s suppliers must seek a special, hard-to-obtain license before shipping their products there.

One of these licenses, issued by the Trump administration, has allowed Intel to deliver central processors to Huawei for use in laptops since 2020. Chinese extremists had urged the Biden administration to revoke this license, but many reluctantly accepted that it would expire later this year and not be renewed.

Huawei’s unveiling Thursday of its first AI-enabled laptop, the MateBook approved shipments of the new chip to Huawei.

“One of the biggest mysteries in Washington, D.C., is why the Commerce Department continues to allow the shipment of American technology to Huawei,” said Republican Rep. Michael Gallagher, who chairs the Commerce Select Committee. House of Representatives on China, in a statement to Reuters.

A source familiar with the matter said the chips were shipped under a pre-existing license. They are not covered by recent widespread restrictions on AI chip shipments to China, the source and another person said.

The Commerce Ministry and Intel declined to comment. Huawei did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The reaction is a sign of growing pressure on the Biden administration to do more to thwart Huawei’s rise, nearly five years after it was added to a list of trade restrictions.

In August, it shocked the world with a new phone powered by a sophisticated chip made by sanctioned Chinese chipmaker SMIC, becoming a symbol of China’s technological resurgence despite Washington’s continued efforts to cripple its ability to produce advanced semiconductors.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing this week, export enforcement official Kevin Kurland said Washington’s restrictions on Huawei have had a “significant impact” on its access to U.S. technology . He also stressed that the goal was not necessarily to prevent Huawei from growing, but to prevent it from misusing American technology for “malicious activities.”

But these remarks failed to stem the frustration of Chinese Republican hawks following the announcement of Huawei’s new laptop.

“These endorsements must stop,” Republican Congressman Michael McCaul said in a statement to Reuters. “Two years ago, I was told that licensing to Huawei would cease. Today, it does not appear that the policy has changed.”

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Karen Freifeld; editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)

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