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Senator says US needs to 'up our game' on tracking Chinese tech efforts

FILE PHOTO: US Senator Mark Warner is shown in Washington

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday that U.S. intelligence agencies need to do a better job in tracking Chinese advanced technology and other efforts across a variety of fields.

"Our intel community is so used to traditionally spying - you spy on the military, you spy on the government. You don't necessarily follow all of the tech companies," Senator Mark Warner told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "You don't follow where China is getting extraction of rare earth minerals. We just need to kind of continue to up our game in following what China is doing, not just in this chip space but frankly in a lot of these other domains."

Warner said the intel side had "missed a couple times," citing Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp's ability to produce advanced 7- nanometer semiconductor chips and other issues involving chipmaking tool manufacturers. He also expressed concerns about China's advanced efforts on life sciences and biotechnology.

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"We've seen no indication that China is not pedal-to-the metal in terms of investing and trying to not just be successful but dominate," Warner added.

Reuters reported in February that the Biden administration had cut off SMIC's most advanced factory from more American imports after it produced a sophisticated chip for Huawei's Mate 60 Pro phone.

Warner said the United States needs to do more on limiting chips and chipmaking tools to China.

"Unfortunately, there may be Western chip manufacturers who are knowingly or unknowingly still having their tools and products circumventing the ban," Warner said.

Warner said he wished the U.S. investors in China-based ByteDance, parent of TikTok, would try "to urge China to go ahead and at least break off the non-Chinese portion" of the popular short video app used by 170 million Americans. U.S. investors own roughly 40% of ByteDance. Warner said he is not sure that China will allow a sale of TikTok.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Congress passed legislation in April requiring ByteDance to divest TikTok's U.S. assets by Jan. 19 of next year or face a ban. TikTok and ByteDance have sued to block the legislation. Warner, who opposes a ban, added: "But at the end of the day, the law is the law."

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Editing by Matthew Lewis)