US Mulls Additional AI Chip Restrictions For China – Report

The United States is reportedly considering additional restrictions for China and its ability to access new AI chip technology.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reported on Tuesday that the Biden administration is considering further restrictions for China on a cutting edge hardware architecture known as gate-all-around (or GAA).

It comes after the US in October 2022 had banned the export of the A100 and more powerful H100 chips to mainland China and Hong Kong.

Nvidia chief executive Jensen Huang compares size of ‘Blackwell’ GPU to that of current ‘Hopper’ H100 chip at GTC developer conference in March 2024. Image credit: Nvidia

AI chip restrictions

Then in October 2023 the US also banned export of the slower A800 and H800, which had been specifically developed for sale to China.

In April 2024 the new AI chip restrictions to China came into force, including any laptops containing those chips.

At the time the US Commerce Department, which oversees export controls, said it plans to continue updating its restrictions on technology shipments to China as it seeks to bolster and fine-tune the measures.

It should be noted that the US export restrictions are hurting US companies, most notably Nvidia, which dominates the AI chip sector.

In January Nvidia admitted it was seeing significantly reduced demand in China for slowed-down chips, as it prepared its line-up to comply with the US export controls.

But also in January it was reported that high-end Nvidia AI chips had been purchased by Chinese military organisations, state-run AI research institutes and universities over the past year in spite of US export controls.

Gate-all-around architecture

Now Bloomberg has reported that the Biden Administration is considering additional restrictions concerning gate-all-around (or GAA) technology.

The measures being discussed would limit China’s ability to gain access to GAA, which promises to make semiconductors more powerful and is currently being introduced by chipmakers.

Samsung Electronics for example has already started production for 3-nanometre chips with GAA technology. Meanwhile TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) plans to include GAA in its upcoming 2-nanometre chips.

Specifically GAA refers to new transistor architecture that could lead to better performance and lower power consumption.

Bloomberg noted its sources as saying that the US is still “determining the scope of a potential rule” and that it was not immediately clear when that process would conclude.

The report also said the US measures would seek to make it more difficult for China to put together advanced computing systems required to build and run AI models.

Bloomberg reported that a draft version of the potential GAA restrictions was deemed “overly broad.” It added that it was not clear if the measure would target China’s GAA development or bar foreign companies from selling to China.

China’s response

Beijing has already lashed out at the recent increased export controls from US.

Last September Beijing warned that it would launch a new state-backed investment fund that aimed to raise about $40 billion for its domestic semiconductor sector.

Then in May 2024 China launched the biggest-ever investment fund for the country’s domestic chip industry, valued at 344 billion yuan ($47.5bn, £37bn) as part of its drive toward semiconductor self-sufficiency.

The third phase of the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, known as the “Big Fund”, is comparable in size to the roughly $53bn in incentives under the US’ Chips and Science Act, passed in 2022, which the country is using to build up domestic chip manufacturing.

The Netherlands and Japan, under pressure from the US, have also imposed export controls on chip-making equipment that bar sales of high-end gear to Chinese firms.

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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