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June 13, 1999

          Letting the Chips Fall Where They May

          By DAVID E. SANGER

                 ASHINGTON -- Bad news for Chinese generals: The United
                 States Commerce Department has just determined that the new
          Sony Playstation II, available later this year, is powered by an
          American-made chip so powerful that Washington would have to be
          notified before it could be shipped to China. If the final destination were a
          company, institute or household linked to the Chinese military, a lengthy
          review would be required to make sure America's most sophisticated
          technology does not fall into the hands of bomb makers. 

          But any Chinese officer determined to play out his fantasies on a
          state-of-the-art Sony -- perhaps simulate a naval attack to retake
          Taiwan? -- has other options. He could simply send his teen-agers over
          to shop at any of the five Toys 'R' Us stores in Hong Kong, which is still
          considered a safe place to send advanced technology even though it
          reverted to China two years ago. 

          The issue of the Playstation is bandied around a lot in Washington these
          days as one more example of how disconnected the politics of controlling
          high-tech exports is from the realities of a marketplace that reinvents itself
          every six months. In the wake of the disclosures about Chinese
          espionage, there has been daily talk on Capitol Hill about crackdowns on
          the export of American technology, not only nuclear secrets from the
          labs, which everyone agrees must be locked up, but also the computing
          power that would help the Chinese simulate nuclear explosions. 
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Kristian Köhntopp, NetUSE Kommunikationstechnologie GmbH
Siemenswall, D-24107 Kiel, Germany, +49 431 386 436 00
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