BIS Leader Previews New Civil Penalties for Export Control Violations

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, Matthew Axelrod, sounded all the right notes at a speech to the Society for International Affairs on May 16th. Recognizing that adversaries like Russia and China advance their own interests at the expense of the United States, Axelrod previewed strengthened civil penalties from BIS designed to deter American firms from violating export control laws. The proposed new penalties include: BIS publicly disclosing which companies it investigates for export control violations when a case opens, not when it is resolved, often years later Forcing companies to admit wrongdoing if they are found to have violated export control laws Increasing financial penalties for violations These ideas are welcome… Read More

BIS Can Take Action to Stop China from Surpassing the U.S. in Artificial Intelligence

China Tech Threat’s Future of BIS project recently released a new paper about the need to “Build an AI Workforce at BIS to Strengthen Controls and Stop Illicit Acquisition of American Artificial Intelligence Technologies.” To recap, AI is a critical technology for achieving economic and military advantages. China already spends billions every year to integrate AI components into its weaponry, and Chinese companies like Dahua, Megvii, and Hikvision have built surveillance camera empires around the world. China-based Lenovo also has funded and employs dangerous facial recognition technologies like Face++. The Chinese government will use its AI prowess to entrench authoritarian regimes, capture facial recognition and other data from the world’s citizens, and compromise American liberties and national security. Chinese investment into American companies… Read More

The Future Ruler of the World?

China Tech Threat’s Future of BIS project is out today with a new paper: “Build an AI Workforce at BIS to Strengthen Controls and Stop Illicit Acquisition of American Artificial Intelligence Technologies”. AI – which essentially causes machines to perform human-like functions – is one technology that is poised to live up to the hype. Five years ago Russian President Vladimir Putin said “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” What would make him make such a sweeping statement about something we normally associate with iPhone autocorrect and Netflix recommendations? In a military context, AI has enormous application for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, logistics, command and control capabilities, lethal autonomous weapons systems, and many… Read More

China Tech Threat Applauds Confirmation of Alan Estevez to Lead BIS

China Tech Threat applauds the confirmation of Alan Estevez to lead the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which is the most important agency most Americans have never heard of. Mr. Estevez brings unprecedented experience to the role with some 30 years in defense, supply chain, and logistics. It has been 5 years since there was a confirmed BIS Director, and 9 months since Mr. Estevez was nominated. The clock has been ticking, and as Mira Ricardel, former Deputy National Security Advisor and BIS Under Secretary for Export Administration, told us, “The only parties that benefit from a lack of senior leadership at BIS are our adversaries.” China Tech Threat Co-Founder Roslyn Layton, PhD welcomed the news… Read More

CTT Conversations: The NVIDIA Hack and the National Security Catastrophe

The hack of NVIDIA has exposed the blueprints of a $580 billion semiconductor juggernaut, putting some of America’s most valuable chip designs at risk of appropriation by Chinese government entities and others. CTT sat down with Dylan Patel, a leading semiconductor industry analyst and Daniel Markus, lead China Task Force staffer to discuss mitigating the impact of this hack. Patel provided an overview of the Nvidia hack and the implications pertaining to Chinese semiconductor firms. Patel explained, “Nvidia’s software is best in class, and hackers have exposed Nvidia’s proprietary designs and put them in the public domain. Now Chinese AI firms and others can kick start their own R&D and catch up with ease… It’s virtually impossible to protect yourself… Read More

#VoteEstevezNow: Our Adversaries Benefit from the Senate’s Delay

As the crisis in Ukraine continues, more eyes are turning towards China. Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that Russia is seeking military equipment and aid from China. Eric Sayers, a former advisor to the U.S. Indo Pacific Command, is quoted by The Post as saying, “If Beijing is offering any type of military assistance to aid Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the spillover effects on U.S.-China policy could be vast.” Sayers added, “It would abruptly end debate about pathways to working with Beijing. More importantly, it would push Washington to accelerate retaliatory and decoupling actions toward China, and create new pressure on companies now doing business in China.” Companies like Lam Research, Applied Materials, and KLA Corporation – semiconductor… Read More

Threat Tech Disconnect: States Are “Buying the Stuff That’s Going to Create Problems”

Despite federal actions to prevent government agencies from purchasing potentially vulnerable Chinese-made technology, inconsistent state- and local-level policies have created security gaps that put citizens’ personal information at risk. This disconnect was the focus of the latest installment of China Tech Threat’s Quick Cut series on Wednesday, The Tech Threat Disconnect. “It’s time for us to wake up,” said U.S. Representative Claudia Tenney (R-NY22). “This can be a real problem for the security of our residents and our local governments. Yet, states continue to buy products from companies like Lexmark, Hikvision and others, which are Chinese owned interests.” “Who knows what’s embedded in these Lexmark printers and especially in Lenovo computers?” she added, pointing to the prominent brands that have… Read More

The Clock is Ticking: #VoteEstevezNow

This week China Tech Threat (CTT) launched a new campaign around the urgency for the Senate to confirm the next Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). It has been five years since the last confirmed BIS Director and seven months since President Biden nominated Alan Estevez, a national security veteran, to take the post. We’ve written extensively about the importance of BIS, calling it the most important agency most Americans have never heard of. Tasked with ensuring an effective export control system to promote America’s strategic technology leadership, the agency and its leaders play an important role in the U.S. government’s response to China’s unabashed ambition to dominate semiconductor and other critical technology… Read More

Russia Tech Export Restrictions Have A Weakness: No BIS Leader Yet 

The centerpiece of President Biden’s new round of Russia sanctions is a complete embargo on selling semiconductors to Russia. While the sanctions by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) will deliver a powerful punch to Russia, they also expose a weakness: BIS, the enforcer of export controls as tools for our national security strategy, has no leader at the top at this critical time.   President Biden nominated Alan Estevez to serve as Undersecretary for Industry and Security seven months ago, but Congress has not yet held a vote to confirm him. This already concerning vacancy at the top of “the most important agency most Americans have never heard of,” creates a glaring hole in the United States’ export control regime, hindering its… Read More

Next Week: “Give Alan Estevez Up-or-Down Vote” Special Series

More than seven months after President Biden nominated Alan Estevez to serve as Undersecretary for Industry and Security, Mr. Estevez has yet to receive a confirmation vote in Congress. Next week China Tech Threat is launching a new special series, Give Alan Estevez an Up-or-Down Vote, meant to track the time this important post has been unfilled and highlight vulnerabilities the vacancy creates. The White House and Congress roundly agree that China’s ambitions to dominate emerging technology markets pose a serious threat to U.S. economic and national security interests. “If there’s any subject that unifies the most conservative Republican and the most liberal Democrat, it’s a deep skepticism of China and a motivation to ensure U.S. economic competitiveness,” CNBC reported… Read More