The move is aimed at preventing China from gaining an edge in the development of AI technologies that could have military and economic implications, such as facial recognition, autonomous vehicles and quantum computing.
In the report, unnamed sources familiar with the matter say that the Commerce Department is drafting a proposal that would require U.S. companies to obtain a license before selling certain types of AI chips to China. The proposal would also expand the definition of AI chips to include those that are designed or optimized for machine learning, the process of teaching computers to perform tasks without explicit instructions.
So far, the Commerce Department has not responded to the report. That may be because the proposal is still under review and could face opposition from some U.S. companies and lawmakers who fear that it could hurt U.S. competitiveness and innovation in the global AI market.
China and the US Entering an AI Arms Race?
The U.S. has already imposed export controls on some Chinese companies that are involved in AI research and development, such as Huawei Technologies Co., Megvii Technology Ltd. and SenseTime Group Ltd., citing national security and human rights concerns.
The U.S. has also accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property and using AI technologies for surveillance and repression of its own citizens, especially in the Xinjiang region where the Uighur Muslim minority lives.
China has denied these allegations and said that it is developing AI for peaceful and beneficial purposes. China has also invested heavily in its own AI industry, aiming to become a world leader in the field by 2030.
According to a report by the UK-based consultants Oxford Insights and Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the US ranked first while China was 19th in terms of AI readiness in 2020, based on indicators such as research, talent, data and infrastructure.
The report said that China has an advantage over the U.S. in terms of data availability and government support, while the U.S. has an edge in terms of research quality and innovation ecosystem. It also warned that the U.S. could lose its leadership position in AI if it does not increase its public and private investment, improve its education system and foster international collaboration in the field.