RISC-V, an open-source chip architecture created at a UC Berkeley lab, has become integral to China’s semiconductor ambitions. This free and accessible technology now sits at the center of an intensifying debate in Washington over limiting sensitive tech exports to China versus maintaining open innovation.
RISC-V provides processor design blueprints used in devices from smartphones to supercomputers. The tech’s open-source ethos fosters competition and collaboration akin to software like Linux. However, US officials fear China is exploiting RISC-V to undermine export controls and advance its domestic chip industry for economic and military gain.
In response, lawmakers propose restricting US collaboration on RISC-V to curb China’s access. Competitor Arm Holdings also lobbies for limitations. But government officials remain cautious, wary of negative impacts on a technology powering global digital infrastructure thanks to its accessibility.
As China continues leveraging RISC-V to close the semiconductor gap with the US, American policymakers struggle with balancing national security interests against the spirit of open tech development. RISC-V embodies the dilemma of an open digital economy enabling all players, not just allies.
Read more about this via the NYT.