US lawmakers angry after Huawei unveils laptop with new Intel AI chip

By Thomson Reuters Apr 12, 2024 | 6:53 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. lawmakers on Friday criticized the Biden administration after sanctioned Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei unveiled a laptop this week powered by an Intel AI chip.

The United States placed Huawei on a trade restriction list in 2019 over sanctions violations related to Iran, part of a broader effort to hobble Beijing’s technological advances.

Placement on the list means the company’s U.S. suppliers have to seek a special, difficult-to-obtain license before shipping to it.

One such license, issued by the Trump administration, has allowed Intel to ship central processors to Huawei for use in laptops since 2020. China hardliners had urged the Biden administration to revoke that license, but there was acceptance by many that it would expire later this year and not be renewed.

Huawei’s unveiling Thursday of its first AI-enabled laptop, the MateBook X Pro powered by Intel’s new Core Ultra 9 processor, shocked and angered them, because it suggested to them that the Commerce Department had approved shipments of the new chip to Huawei.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik said in a post on social media platform X that the laptop “makes it clear” that the Commerce Department gave a greenlight to shipments to Huawei of the new chip.

“It is unacceptable that the Biden Administration is actively working to undermine U.S. national security by allowing our greatest strategic adversary access to cutting edge American technology,” Stefanik said.

The Commerce Department declined to comment. Huawei and Intel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Another Republican representative, Michael McCaul, echoed Stefanik’s comments in an emailed statement to Reuters. “These approvals must stop,” he said. “Two years ago, I was told licenses to Huawei would stop. Today, it doesn’t seem as though the policy has changed.”

A source familiar with the matter said the chips were shipped under an existing license. They are not covered by recent broad-cased restrictions on AI chip shipments to China, the source and another person said.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Leslie Adler)