Efforts by the United States to keep China from obtaining cutting-edge technology may have been thwarted by an American chip company.

Reuters reported that GPU powerhouse Nvidia is now offering a new advanced chip (that is said to be slower) in China that meets recent export control rules.

It should be remembered the US recently instructed both Nvidia and AMD to stop selling some of their AI-related technology to China.

Slower A800 chip

Nvidia confirmed with Reuters it was offering the new chip to China on Monday, amid reports that Chinese computer sellers are now advertising products featuring the new Nvidia chip.

The chip in question is called the A800, and it represents the first reported effort by a US semiconductor company to create advanced processors for China that follow new US trade rules, Reuters reported.

Nvidia has previously said the US export limitations could cost it $400 million worth of chip sales to China in its fiscal third quarter.

US regulations passed earlier in October dramatically restricted the sale of advanced semiconductors and chip-making equipment to Chinese organisations.

The US also added 31 companies to its unverified list, including YMTC and a subsidiary of leading chip equipment maker Naura Technology Group, significantly limiting their ability to buy equipment from US suppliers.

The US export controls on advanced microchips and equipment, is part of an effort to hobble China’s semiconductor industry – and in turn its military.

In late August, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices both said that their advanced chips, including Nvidia’s data centre chip A100, were added to the export control list by the US Commerce Department.

The Nvidia A800 can be used in place of the A100 and both are GPUs, or graphics processing units.

Such advanced chips can cost thousands of dollars each, Reuters reported.

“The Nvidia A800 GPU, which went into production in Q3, is another alternative product to the Nvidia A100 GPU for customers in China. The A800 meets the U.S. Government’s clear test for reduced export control and cannot be programmed to exceed it,” a Nvidia spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

Nvidia declined comment on whether it consulted the Commerce Department about the new chip. A Commerce Department spokesperson declined to comment.

According to Reuters, at least two Chinese websites by major server makers offer the A800 chip in their products. One of those products previously used the A100 chip in promotional material.

A comparison of the chip capabilities with the A100 shows that the chip-to-chip data transfer rate is 400 gigabytes per second on the new chip, down from 600 gigabytes per second on the A100.

The new rules restrict rates of 600 gigabytes per second and up.

China ambitions

Last month China president Xi Jinping called for his country to “win the battle” on strategically important technologies, days after the US dramatically expanded trade sanctions aimed at crippling China’s tech initiatives.

Ever since the US president Joe Biden signed the Chips and Science Act that sets aside nearly $53 billion (£44bn) to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing, America has been ramping up its export restrictions on China.

Weeks after the US Chips Act, the US introduced export controls on design software and substrate materials to block Chinese companies from using advanced chip manufacturing processes.

And in September the Biden administration warned US firms that receive US Chips funds “cannot compromise national security” and they will not be allowed to invest the money in China.

The US Commerce Secretary also warned these US firms that “they can’t send the latest technology overseas.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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