US-China tensions rise as Biden adds more entities to blacklist

The US government is using economic tools, such as export controls, to achieve foreign policy goals and restrict China’s access to cutting-edge technology.

Flag of USA and China on cracked concrete wall background

President Biden’s administration has escalated tensions with China by adding more Chinese entities to an export blacklist than any previous US government. This latest move by the Commerce Department brings the total number of entities targeted under Biden to 319, surpassing the count during Trump’s tenure. The decision underscores the increasing use of economic tools to achieve foreign policy objectives, particularly as Biden seeks to limit China’s access to advanced technology, citing national security concerns.

The heightened scrutiny on China comes amidst growing apprehensions in Washington over President Xi Jinping’s assertiveness towards Taiwan, fueling fears of Beijing leveraging American technology to bolster its military capabilities. Both Democrats and Republicans have rallied behind the tough stance on China, reflecting bipartisan consensus on the issue, especially with the upcoming elections looming. Biden has maintained Trump’s tariffs while expanding restrictions on Beijing’s access to cutting-edge innovations, notably in critical sectors like AI.

The entity list serves as a primary mechanism for sanctioning entities on national security grounds and has increasingly become a focal point in US-China relations. Beijing has denounced Washington’s actions as economic coercion and unilateral bullying, vowing to defend the rights and interests of Chinese companies. In a retaliatory move, China imposed sanctions on two US companies, signalling a tit-for-tat escalation in tensions. However, such measures are largely symbolic, with minimal impact on the targeted firms.

Despite the Biden administration’s firm stance, there have been occasional concessions, such as withdrawing a Chinese government laboratory from the entity list to address the fentanyl crisis. Nonetheless, the recent additions to the list signal a continuation of the US strategy to maintain its technological edge, particularly in dual-use technologies. As Washington tightens controls on exports to Chinese firms involved in military modernisation efforts, the stage is set for further friction in the already strained US-China relationship.