The US Department of Commerce is considering a ban on US companies selling modern chipmaking equipment to Chinese companies, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

The rules will extend the existing ban on US companies selling such equipment to China’s leading chip maker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. The broader ban will affect companies, including state-sponsored Hua Hong Semiconductor, ChangXin Memory Technologies and Yangtze Memory Technologies Corp.

The potential ban is at an early stage and could take months to draft. This would escalate technological tensions between the two nations, which have clashed over China’s use of surveillance and identification technology in what US officials have described as human rights abuses against the country’s Uighur ethnic minority, among other things. China has stepped up efforts to build its domestic semiconductor industry after US sanctions crippled Huawei Technologies, one of China’s largest technology companies, by cutting off chip supplies. Beijing sees home-made chips as the key to breaking its dependence on Western technology, but it needs chip-making tools that are largely made elsewhere.

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