US Adds Chinese AI Startups to Blacklist

The U.S. government widened its trade blacklist on Monday, adding several of China’s top artificial intelligence startups, Reuters reports.

The firms added to the list include video surveillance company Hikvision, AI unicorn Sensetime, and Alibaba-backed deep learning software designer Megvii.

The decision to add the companies was not tied to this week’s trade talks, U.S. officials said, with the Commerce Department stating that the “entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said that “the U.S. Government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China.”

The U.S. government’s decision “strikes directly at China’s ambitions in artificial intelligence,” writes The Wall Street Journal. China has set its sights on being the world’s leader in AI by 2030, but with several of its most advanced AI firms now barred from purchasing crucial components from the U.S., the Middle Kingdom’s ambitions could be set back.

Some of them, however, are downplaying their reliance on U.S. components. Voice recognition firm iFlytek said the blacklisting would not affect its daily operations, while data recovery company Xiamen Meiya Pico Information stated that most of its suppliers were domestic outfits.

Surveillance equipment maker Zhejiang Dahua Technology, whose suppliers include Intel, Nvidia, Ambarella, Western Digital, and Seagate Technology, said on a conference call that “it was confident it could easily replace some components and would also seek other solutions to keep servicing clients.”

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