GT investigates: How US vilifies China's chip progress with cognitive warfare tricks?
Imaginary enemy
Published: Dec 12, 2023 09:39 PM
Editor's Note:

"Cognitive Warfare" has become a new form of confrontation between states, and a new security threat. With new technological means, it sets agendas and spreads disinformation, so as to change people's perceptions and thus alter their self-identity. Launching cognitive warfare against China is an important means for Western anti-China forces to attack and discredit the country. Under the manipulation of the US-led West, the "China threat theory" has continued to foment. 

Some politicians and media outlets have publicly smeared China's image by propagating false narratives such as the "China economy collapse theory" and "China virus threat theory," in an attempt to incite and provoke dissatisfaction with China among people in certain countries. These means all serve the seemingly peaceful evolution strategy of the US to contain China's rise and maintain its hegemony.

The Global Times is publishing a series of articles to systematically reveal the intrigues of the US-led West's cognitive warfare targeting China, and expose its lies and vicious intentions, in an attempt to show international readers a true, multi-dimensional, and panoramic view of China. 

This is the seventh installment in the series.

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The US' recent escalated tech war against China, which attempted to cut China off from high-end chips, has inadvertently harmed its own chip giants. The US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo attended the annual Reagan National Defense Forum (RNDF) in California on December 2, asserting a need for more funding for her department to stop China from catching up on cutting-edge semiconductors. She also told Bloomberg on Monday that the US will take the "strongest possible" action to protect its national security, when asked how the Commerce Department will respond to a recent "chipmaking breakthrough" in China.

Weeks ago, the US' leading chip designer Nvidia reportedly forecast a "significant drop" in its China sales in the fourth quarter, due to an upgraded US chip ban announced in October.

China has "consistently accounted for approximately 20 to 25 percent of data center revenue," according to the Nikkei. Responding to the tightened controls, which ban Nvidia from exporting its A800 and H800 GPUs to China, Nvidia said it is developing newly compliant chips for the Chinese market. The new chips will comply with the controls but will probably be less competitive, industry insiders pointed out. 

The US is waging a long, lose-lose "chip war" against China. Following a raft of controls announced in October 2022 on exports of advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China, the US Commerce Department, in October this year, updated and broadened its export controls to stop China from acquiring advanced computer chips.

Worse still, apart from directly clamping down on Chinese market and chip enterprises, the US has also carried out vicious "public opinion sanctions" against China's semiconductor industry in recent years, so as to tarnish the image of Chinese tech companies, and to diminish China's progress in the chip field through various cognitive warfare tactics, the Global Times found.

An in-depth look at much of the US media's coverage of China's semiconductor industry in the last few years reveals a list of underhanded tactics employed in the US' chip field warfare against China.

Visitors learn about smart cars loaded with Snapdragon chips at the 6th China International Import Expo in Shanghai on November 6, 2023. Photo: AFP

Visitors learn about smart cars loaded with Snapdragon chips at the 6th China International Import Expo in Shanghai on November 6, 2023. Photo: AFP


Making groundless Intellectual Property (IP) theft accusations against Chinese tech companies, such as "stealing chip designs" and "stealing manufacturing tech," serve US' defamation attempts against China. With lies and rumors, they try to mislead the public that China's rise in the chip field has mainly been achieved by "stealing" US technology, so as to manufacture a motive to support the US government's chip blockade on China.

In recent years, reports of Western tech companies charging their former Chinese employees for stealing secret chip tech have appeared in US media coverage from time to time, giving readers a false impression of Chinese companies' or employees' frequent theft of technology. 

Most of these stories only contained one-sided sources, and lack follow-up reports. No independent investigations were conducted nor was the Chinese side reached for a response, further amplifying the voices attacking China, the Global Times found.

Fox Business, for instance, reported in January 2022 that cutting-edge Dutch semiconductor circuit manufacturer ASML accused one of its former Chinese employees of stealing its technology. Without any balanced sources, the story concluded in a politically loaded sentence: "In recent years, many Chinese nationals living in the US have been accused of stealing business practices and trade secrets on behalf of Beijing."

The Chinese company involved, Dongfang Jingyuan Electron Limited (DJEL), later denied the claim in a statement in February 2022. But none of the US media outlets mentioned the denial in related coverage.

China's scientific and technological achievements are not made through theft or robbery, noted then Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian in February 2020, responding to a question raised by media sources about China's comment on the US side's accusation of "stealing US scientific achievements."

Statistics showed that between 2009 and 2019, Chinese scientists published 2.6 million papers in international journals, ranking second in the world, mentioned Zhao. He criticized that certain people in the US "have ulterior motives in cooking up China's so-called theft of US scientific and research outcomes."


Sometimes, US media's reports on China's chip industry take on an arrogant tone. They revel in China's high-tech enterprises' seemingly "difficult" situation under the US' sanctions, so as to depict China's "dependence" on imported chips, and dismiss the achievements China has made in the field of cutting-edge technology.

The latest US expansion of export controls on advanced chips "will make it difficult for China to develop in that sector," stated the VOA on October 19.

Chinese industries will "hit a wall" in 2025 or 2026 if they can't get next generation chips or the tools to make their own, the Associated Press quoted a tech industry consultant Handel Jones as saying in an April 4 article. China "will start falling behind significantly," the article claimed, which was later echoed by many other US media outlets.

Some naysayers even maliciously linked China's efforts in chip development with its temporary slowdown in economic growth, trying to portray China as a country that no longer has the strength, at least economically, to break through the US' edge-cutting chip blockade.

Contrary to the gloomy outlook forecasted by some US media outlets, Chinese insiders reached by the Global Times said they are optimistic about the future of the country's chip industry.

And some data may prove their optimism to be well informed. Nearly half of all machinery equipment tenders by Chinese foundries from January to August 2023 were won by local manufacturers, according to an analysis of 182 tenders by Huatai Securities in September, Reuters reported on October 18. It also cited a report by CINNO Research, which showed that equipment-related revenue among China's top 10 domestic equipment manufacturers grew by 39 percent year-on-year for the first half of 2023, representing $2.2 billion in sales.

"There is definitely huge progress happening in the Chinese semiconductor equipment space, as reflected in the strong revenue growth metrics," Reuter quoted a semiconductor analyst as saying.


Contrary to the previous trick of belittling China's achievements in the chip field, US media and politicians are also accustomed to fear-mongering, exaggerating China's chip development and its impact on the world, especially on the US-led West. 

The "China chip threat theory" has become a favorite fearmongering tactic frequently employed by the US government and media sources. They extensively report the rise of China's chip tech, but distort China's international image and frame Chinese high-tech companies as shady operatives, exaggerating the consequences of the loss of the US chip monopoly, while portraying the blocking and suppression of China as reasonable behavior. 

For example, according to an article titled "Think tank urges US to get even stricter with China over chips" published in the American Journal of Transportation in October, the Washington-based Silverado Policy Accelerator claimed that China is building up massive production capacity of foundational chips. "Now, Silverado warns, the Asian superpower is showing signs of undercutting prices of its Western competitors in this market."

The Global Times found that the US officials and media sources even intentionally associate chips with the military and defense industry, and politicize the purpose of Chinese chips, calling on their domestic enterprises and other countries to join forces against China.

As early as 2021, the Financial Times reported that the National Security Commission, a US congressionally mandated commission concluded that the country could potentially lose its advantage in the semiconductor industry due to the rapid development of China's chip industry.

According to the Financial Times, the co-chairman of the commission stated that the US currently enjoys a "two-generation lead" over China in terms of semiconductors, but urgent action is needed to prevent the loss of this edge. 

The 756-page report issues by the commission outlines how artificial intelligence can assist the US and consumers in various fields but warns that with China's investment in advanced technology, the potential of artificial intelligence is transforming into a "moment of strategic vulnerability."

However, such baseless slander only starkly reveals the ambitions of the US government.

At the RNDF, Raimondo stated that US companies will need to adapt to the priorities of US national security, including in export controls on semiconductors implemented by the US Department of Commerce, the VOA reported. 

According to the VOA, previously, after the US Department of Commerce announced plans to restrict exports of more chips designed by companies such as Nvidia to China, Raimondo explained that the new measure is aimed at hindering China's military development. "The updates are specifically designed to control access to computing power, which will significantly slow the PRC's development of next-generation frontier model, and could be leveraged in ways that threaten the US and our allies," she said.

The US media establishment, politicians, and business figures have consistently shown hostility and malice in their statements regarding China's chip industry, Fu Liang, a Beijing-based tech analyst, told the Global Times. 

Fu noted that for a long time, there has been much chatter about the threat of Chinese chips to the US economy and technological leadership without concrete evidence, and a flagrant abuse of the concept of "national security" in order to maintain their hegemonic rule.

US pays the piper

"Overly broad, unilateral controls risk harming the US semiconductor ecosystem without advancing national security as they encourage overseas customers to look elsewhere," stated the US Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) on October 17, in a response to the updated export control.

Just as per the SIA's worries, the US' semiconductor curb targeting China, as well as the cognitive warfare it launched against China in the chip field, has led to more harm to its own chip companies rather than being beneficial, Chinese industry observers told the Global Times.

In the long run, the US itself will have to pay the piper, they noted.

Even though Nvidia will design new chips for the Chinese market, the chips may no longer have an advantage over their Chinese counterparts under the US sanctions, said Xiang Ligang, a veteran analyst in the telecom industry. "We all know that it's not impossible for China to produce its own AI chips," he told the Global Times.

The US' upgraded controls on advanced chips may lead Chinese companies to switch to domestic chips, which will stimulate the development of domestic AI chips, and eventually push the Chinese market away from US exporters, said Xiang.

Since the series of cognitive battles waged by the US have extended to the chip field, Fu noted that it is inevitable for politicians and the media establishment to cooperate with government sanctions in order to safeguard US interests against the current backdrop of China-US technological competition. 

"However, this extreme pressure measure has not achieved the desired effect," Fu said. 

Observers pointed out that although the US government's suppression of China's semiconductor industry will continue, US companies still value the Chinese market.  Only through win-win cooperation in technology can confidence be injected into global development, they said.