The United States is poised to implement stringent measures aimed at preventing American chipmakers from selling their products to China in a way that bypasses existing government restrictions.
These actions are part of the Biden administration’s broader strategy to further tighten regulations surrounding exporting A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) chips.
The forthcoming rules will build upon the comprehensive restrictions on shipping advanced chips and chip-making equipment to China, which were introduced in October of the preceding year.
While the exact timing of these updates may be subject to change, they are expected to be announced in the near future.
Under these new regulations, certain A.I. chips that marginally fall short of existing technical specifications will be prohibited. Additionally, companies will be mandated to report their shipments of specific A.I. chips.
An anonymous U.S. official provided this information, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, responsible for export controls, refrained from making any public comments on the matter.
This latest crackdown on tech exports to China coincides with the United States diplomatic efforts to improve relations with the second-largest global economy.
High-ranking members of the Biden administration have been engaged in dialogue with their Chinese counterparts in recent months, and introducing these new rules could complicate these diplomatic endeavors.
Previously, government restrictions hindered Nvidia, the world’s leading chip manufacturer, from supplying its most advanced A.I. chips to Chinese customers. These chips are widely utilized in developing chatbots and other A.I. systems.
However, Nvidia responded swiftly by introducing less advanced variants tailored to the Chinese market, such as the H800, which matched the computing power of their blocked H100 chip in certain A.I. applications, though with certain limitations in key performance aspects.
The United States is now establishing new guidelines for AI chips, which will encompass certain advanced datacenter A.I. chips currently outside the scope of existing restrictions.
While the official did not specify which additional chips would be affected, it has been suggested that Nvidia’s H800 is one of the targets for these new regulations. Notably, chips designed for consumer products like laptops will be exempt from these curbs.
Nevertheless, companies will need to notify the Commerce Department when fulfilling orders for the most powerful consumer chips to ensure they are not misused in ways that could compromise national security.
The update to the October 2022 rules is also designed to keep pace with the evolving technology of A.I. chips. Companies will be required to inform the government about semiconductors whose performance falls just below the prescribed guidelines before exporting them to China.
The government will make case-by-case determinations about whether these chips pose a national security risk and may be shipped unless otherwise instructed by the chipmaker.
These new restrictions are expected to close a loophole that has allowed Chinese companies to access American A.I. chips through their overseas subsidiaries.
Importantly, these rules are not anticipated to include restrictions on access to U.S. cloud computing services or those provided by U.S. allies. However, feedback will be sought regarding potential risks associated with such access and how those risks can be mitigated.
The Biden administration has communicated its intention to update these contentious rules to Beijing this month.