US set to impose more trade restrictions on Chinese AI and supercomputer companies

It aims to prevent China's military from building more advanced weapons.

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Steve Dent
October 4, 2022 4:24 AM
Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 drive past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Thomas Peter / Reuters

The White House is set to unveil rules that would further restrict access to advanced computing technology in China that could be used by its military, according to The New York Times. The new measures, which may be announced this week, reportedly aim to reduce Beijing's ability to produce advanced weapons and surveillance systems. 

The new rules would build on restrictions that block companies from selling US-developed technologies to smartphone manufacturer Huawei, first introduced by the Trump administration in 2019. President Biden is expected to apply such restrictions to additional Chinese firms, government research labs and other entities, insiders told the NYT. Companies around the world would then be prohibited from selling any American-made tech to the targeted organizations.

Last month, Reuters reported that the White House could try to curb sales of advanced US-made tools to China's semiconductor industry. It may also limit exports of American microchips to advanced Chinese supercomputing and data centers. The measures could hit not only government, but academic institutions and internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent. 

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While the US has the most performance in the Top500 supercomputer list, China leads in the number of systems. The new US curbs, if enacted, would be the largest effort to combat China's ability to build supercomputers and data centers. 

While most supercomputing uses are benign, some have malign purposes like weapons development or surveillance. In one instance, a supercomputer built with Intel and NVIDIA chips was used to surveille minority Uyghurs in the nation. Last month, NVIDIA revealed in an SEC filing that the US government was restricting sales of computer chips used for supercomputers and AI to both Russia and China. 

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US set to impose more trade restrictions on Chinese AI and supercomputer companies