Tensions between the US and China are at an all time high. Their relationship seems to be at an impasse where the US isn’t sure if it wants to stick to the One China policy, and on the other hand China sees the island as integral territory. While this hasn’t descended yet into a boots on the ground situation, there is a economic war going on between the two countries. Just recently, the US banned Nvidia and AMD from selling their top commercial GPUs, also heavily used for AI applications, to China.
It is rumored that AMD and NVIDIA have been asked by the US government to stop supplying GPU to their Chinese clients. pic.twitter.com/7j0ELtiB2f
— Shanghai Macro Strategist (@ShanghaiMacro) August 31, 2022
US officials have asked Nvidia to stop exporting their A100 and H100 data center GPU cards. For AMD, the ban is limited to their MI250 GPUs. Nvidia states in a regulatory filing, “The USG indicated that the new license requirement will address the risk that the covered products may be used in, or diverted to, a ‘military end use’ or ‘military end user’ in China and Russia,”
The GPUs in question are one of the best cards these companies offer for AI and HPC workloads. According to Nvidia the “ H100 enables next-generation AI and HPC breakthroughs“. The H100 GPU uses fourth generation tensor cores which are up to 6x faster chip-to-chip compared to the A100. Even AMD’s MI250 is a super performer when it comes to AI and HPC workloads, delivering about 1.4 – 2.4 times the performance of the A100.
While we are not in a position to outline specific policy changes at this time, we are taking a comprehensive approach to implement additional actions necessary related to technologies, end-uses, and end-users to protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.
– US officials to Reuters
China has been seizing the HPC ground from the US, and even plans to build 10 exascale systems by 2025. While these supercomputers can be used in many useful ways, such as weather detection and studying complex models. They can also be used in many militaristic ways, such as breaking encryption, and running complex war simulations.
But China is obviously not the one to give up, and they have heavily ramped up R&D spending in their own domestic chip capacity. Even their current exascale systems were based on a domestic chip design. The recent GPU export ban from the US is definitely going to hurt, but only temporarily as China continues to bridge the gap.