The revoked licence is designed to obstruct China’s efforts to become self-sufficient in silicon to overcome US trade embargo
The Dutch government has partially revoked an export licence covering shipments of lithography systems by chip machine maker ASML to China.
ASML’s website says, “Lithography, or photolithography, is the critical step in the computer chip-making process. It involves coating the wafer with photosensitive material and exposing it with light inside an ASML lithography machine”.
ASML said in a statement that only a few, unnamed, customers in China would be affected. Even so, the revocation has been criticised by China.
According to Reuters, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, urged the Netherlands “to be impartial, respect market principles and the law, take practical actions to protect the common interests of both countries and their companies and maintain the stability of international supply chains”.
US updates rules
In October, the US updated its export rules, imposing restrictions on some parts of lithography systems for advanced production facilities. ASML said at the time it would assess the revised scope. It recently received clarification through discussions with representatives in Washington which led to the Dutch government’s action.
China accounts for almost half of ASML’s exports and in 2023, the firm challenged the Netherlands’ Trade Minister about the US unilaterally imposing rules that affected the export of another chipmaking machine to China. The US trade embargoes were put in place on the grounds of national security, and accusations of breaking international trade sanctions with Iran and industrial espionage.
China has been striving to catch up in lithography and its specialist use of lasers as it strives to become self-sufficient in silicon after the US trade embargos begun by President Trump.