The US may decide to add OLED equipment to the list of items prohibited to sell to China as trade war escalates

The trade war between the US and China escalates, an the US is mostly focused on restricting semiconductor equipment, materials and chips sales to China as its sees semiconductors as a crucial strategic technology.

F-35 helmet HMD photo

According to new reports, the US is now considering adding display technologies, mostly OLEDs, to the list of restricted technologies and may ask Japan and Korea to stop selling materials and equipment to Chinese display makers. 


Apparently the US government is still debating over this decision. OLED displays are used in defense applications, but OLED displays, unlike semiconductors, can be replaced with LCDs without effecting performance much, which means that hurting China's OLED industry will not have a strategic effect on China outside of the display industry. China today is the world's leading display maker by volume, but Korea is still leading in OLED display production. This decision, if happens will have more economic implications than strategic ones. 

The US is also encouraging companies to bring semiconductor manufacturing, and other crucial technologies back to the US. Adding OLED and other next-gen displays to the list of strategic technologies could mean that the US will also give initiatives to produce displays in the US. 

In 2020 The US DoD awarded eMagin with $33.6 million to sustain and maintain its OLED microdisplay production facility in the US. Perhaps in the future we will see more actions like that from the US government, but if so they will need to be at a much larger scale as OLED production facilities are capital intensive, and there will be a need to start a new supply chain in the US for display manufacturing. It could be an interesting development for microLED technologies, which may be easier to produce at the US or Europe compared to OLEDs.

Posted: Apr 29,2023 by Ron Mertens