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Beijing envoy warns Dutch of retaliation for chip curbs: ‘China won’t just swallow this’

  • Tan Jian, Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands, says export restrictions on chip technology ‘will not be without consequences’

  • The Dutch firm ASML is the world’s leading producer of photolithography machines crucial to making advanced microchips

By Finbarr Bermingham in Brussels

March 22, 2023

China’s ambassador to the Netherlands has said there will be “consequences” for the Dutch decision to impose restrictions on the export of equipment essential to the making of advanced semiconductors. Image: Shutterstock

The Netherlands will face consequences if it blocks the export of high-end semiconductor equipment to China, Beijing’s envoy to the country has warned.

The Hague announced new curbs on the export of chip-making technology this month, in step with the United States in curtailing China’s access to cutting-edge chips.

“This will not be without consequences. I’m not going to speculate on countermeasures, but China won’t just swallow this,” ambassador Tan Jian said in an interview with Het Financieele Dagblad, a Dutch newspaper, on Monday.

The Netherlands is home to ASML, the world leader in producing the sophisticated – and expensive – photolithography machines that are essential to making advanced microchips.

The chips power everything from smart devices and electric vehicles to data centres and space shuttles. They have emerged as a key battleground in the US-China tech war, with Washington seeking to choke Beijing’s access to both the chips and the equipment producing them.

The US has been piling pressure on allies, including the Netherlands, Japan and South Korea, to follow suit.

The Dutch government said on March 8 that it would restrict the export of deep-ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machines. These are ASML’s second most-advanced machines. It has never exported the most advanced machines, extreme ultraviolet, or EUV, to China.

“Given technological developments and geopolitical context, the government has concluded that it is necessary for (inter) national security to expand the existing export control of specific semiconductor manufacturing equipment,” trade minister Liesje Schreinemacher wrote to Dutch lawmakers.

ASML, Europe’s largest tech company by value, sends 18 per cent of its orders to China, according to Politico Europe.

Tan, the envoy, said the move would be “bad for China, bad for the Netherlands and world trade, and will have a negative effect on our relations and economic cooperation”.

“You are a small country, and you have always been the standard bearer for free trade. You maintain your lead by selling to China and reinvesting the proceeds,” Tan said.

“It is clear that the Americans are behind this. Their policy is to pressure allies and suppress Chinese growth through coercion, harassment and domination,” he added in the interview.

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