The US Department of Commerce officially added the Chinese fabless company, Loongson, to its already long blacklist, along with 27 other Chinese companies. The company was added to the country’s Entity List after it was accused of procuring American technologies on behalf of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
China itself already confirmed that its defense forces are using Loongson chips and the company’s LoongArch microarchitecture, when it announced last year that it would be banning the exportation of said processors to neighbouring Russia and that its decision had nothing to do with the ongoing Ukraine war. That decision currently feels odd, given fresh rumours of the mainland supposedly contemplating whether or not it would supply the Slavic nation with its own weapons.
Getting back on point, companies and entities that find themselves on the US Entity list are expressly prohibited from purchasing or licensing US-made technologies, be it directly or indirectly. That being said, some Chinese companies may still apply for a license to continue trade through the country’s Bureau of Industry and Security, although it should be noted that if you’re already on the list, the chances of them actually getting it are incredibly slim.
What makes Loongson unique to the processor landscape is that the company has its own line of CPUs, manufactured from the 12nm process node and with performance levels on par with AMD Ryzen and Intel CPUs from several generations ago. Unlike its more popular and widely available counterparts, however, the Chinese brand’s processors use a proprietary instruction set architecture (ISA), known as LoongArch, thus dramatically reducing their reliance on foreign licenses. On a side note, these processors are manufactured by SMIC, yet another Chinese semiconductor company that’s also on the US Entity List.
In spite of the blacklist, SMIC is still, like Loongson, one of China’s defacto manufacturers right now, given that the company is state-owned and still has some ties of sorts to American companies and brands, such as Broadcom and Qualcomm, but even that is now under threat of fear of US national security.
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