Hey, China! Now You Can BuyOur Technology

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Now that the worst of the national security flap over China appears to be over, the White House has decided to do what the computer industry has long wanted: ease export restriction on high-performance computers to foreign countries. On Thursday the President decided to raise the limits on the power of computers that can be sold to more than 100 countries in Central Europe, Latin America and Asia without going through laborious licensing procedures. Good business, or rather the loss of good business, was the basic rationale. "Computers that are widely used by businesses and can be manufactured by European, Japanese and Asian companies will soon exceed the limits that I established on high-performance computers in 1996," said the President.

"Even many thoughtful conservatives agree with Clinton," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. "Computing speed has increased exponentially, and unless U.S. regulations are updated, business will go to Japan or South Korea." There is even a national security rationale to allowing U.S. exports of better computers. If other countries like China use our computers, says Shannon, "it gives us a better understanding of how their systems work. We know the strength and limitations of our computers and how to get into them." The updated regulations will still keep top-of-the line, state-of-the-art, national security computers off limits. The revised regulations also require congressional clearance -- and some conservative Republicans may want to make an issue of them. But, says Shannon, "it looks like the White House has decided it can take the heat now."