China Still Has Access To High-Speed NVIDIA AI Chips!

Military institutions, AI research institutes and universities in China are still able to source and buy NVIDIA AI chips, albeit in small quantities!

 

AMD + NVIDIA Banned From Selling AI Chips To China!

Both AMD and NVIDIA were ordered by the US government to stop selling high-performance AI chips to both China and Russia on 26 August 2022. This ban was introduced to prevent both countries from using those high-performance AI chips for military purposes.

With immediate effect, the US government banned the export of all AI chips that are equal to, or faster than, the NVIDIA A100 (and H100), or the AMD Instinct MI250 chips. NVIDIA then created slower A800 and H800 AI chips for the Chinese market, but even they were also banned in October 2023.

Recommended : AMD, NVIDIA Banned From Selling AI Chips To China!

 

China Still Has Access To High-Speed NVIDIA AI Chips!

Despite the ongoing ban on the sale of high-performance AI chips to China and Russia, it appears that Chinese military-linked research institutes are still able to source and buy NVIDIA AI chips, albeit in small quantities!

According to a Reuters report on 14 January 2024, public tender documents show that dozens of military institutions, AI research institutes and universities in China with links to the military, have purchased and received high-performance NVIDIA AI chips like the A100 and the H100, as well as the slower A800 and H800 AI chips.

  • Harbin Institute of Technology purchased six NVIDIA A100 chips in May 2023, to train a deep-learning model
  • University of Electronic Science and Technology of China purchased on NVIDIA A100 in December 2022, for an unspecified purpose.

Both universities are subject to the US export restrictions, although the sale of those AI chips are not illegal in China.

More than 100 tenders were identified, in which Chinese state entities successfully purchased NVIDIA A100 and H100 chips, and dozens of tenders show successful purchases of the slower A800 chips.

  • Tsinghua University purchased two H100 chips in December 2023, as well as about eighty A100 chips since September 2022.
  • A Ministry of Industry and Information Technology laboratory purchased a H100 chip in December 2023.
  • An unnamed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entity based in Wuxi sought to purchase three A100 chips in October 2023, and one H100 chip in January 2024
  • Shandong Artificial Intelligence Institute purchased five A100 chips from Shandong Chengxiang Electronic Technology in December 2023
  • Chongqing University purchased an NVIDIA A100 chip in January 2024.

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To be clear – neither NVIDIA or its approved retailers were found to have supplied those chips. NVIDIA said that it complies with all applicable export control laws, and requires its customers to do the same:

If we learn that a customer has made an unlawful resale to third parties, we’ll take immediate and appropriate action.

– NVIDIA spokesperson

Even though Chinese state entities appear to be able to purchase high-performance AI chips, the Reuters report also shows the effectiveness of the American AI chip ban.

The training of large artificial intelligence models require thousands of high-performance AI chips, and China does not seem to be able to procure more than a handful of these critical chips.

That does not mean China is slowing down its AI initiatives. Instead of relying on “gray imports” of AMD or NVIDIA AI chips, Chinese entities are doing their best to switch to local alternatives. In 2023, HUAWEI received orders for some 5,000 of its Ascent 910B chips.

Chinese mega-companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent also have their own in-house AI chips like the Kunlunxin Gen 2, Hanguang 800, and Zixiao.

 

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