Gina raimondo seemed frustrated when she took the stage at the Reagan National Defence Forum in California in December. The Department of Commerce, which she leads, had just tightened restrictions on the sale of American semiconductors to China. But Nvidia, the world’s most valuable chipmaker, had immediately started developing a new, slightly less powerful artificial-intelligence (ai) chip for the Chinese market, to which the restrictions would not apply. “If you redesign a chip…that enables [China] to do ai, I’m going to control it the very next day,” Ms Raimondo warned.
That was bombastic, given that it had taken her department a full year to rework the restrictions to cut off Nvidia’s previous workaround. But America’s five-year campaign against Chinese technology is intensifying. Earlier this month it was reported that Jensen Huang, Nvidia’s chief executive, and two fellow chip bosses had been summoned to testify in Congress about their Chinese business. On January 19th abb, a Swiss industrial group, revealed that American lawmakers were investigating its links with China. abb said it was co-operating with the investigation; Nvidia has said that it is working closely with the government to ensure compliance with the export controls.