US to Tighten Restrictions on AI Chip Exports to China
US Aims to Block AI Chip Export Workarounds to China
A US official has announced that the United States will take further measures to prevent American chipmakers from selling products to China that bypass government restrictions. These actions are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to effectively block more AI chip exports. The new rules, which Reuters is reporting on for the first time, will be added to the existing US restrictions on shipments of advanced chips and chipmaking equipment to China, which were unveiled last October. Although the updates are expected this week, delays in the implementation are not uncommon.
New Rules to Restrict AI Chips and Demand Reporting
The new rules aim to block certain AI chips that narrowly fall below current technical parameters, while also requiring companies to report shipments of other AI chips. The official, who provided information on condition of anonymity, stated that these rules will be implemented. The US Department of Commerce, which oversees export controls, declined to comment.
Complicating Diplomatic Efforts
These new restrictions on tech exports to China coincide with the Biden administration’s attempts to improve relations between the world’s two largest economies. High-level officials from both countries have met in recent months, and the introduction of these rules risks complicating these diplomatic efforts.
Nvidia’s Workaround and New Guidelines
Last year, Nvidia, the world’s most valuable chipmaker, was prevented from shipping two of its most advanced AI chips to Chinese customers due to government restrictions. However, Nvidia released new variants for the Chinese market that were less sophisticated and thus circumvented the US export controls. The US now plans to introduce new guidelines for AI chips to restrict certain advanced datacenter AI chips that are not currently covered by the existing rules.
Exempting Consumer Products
Consumer products like laptops will be exempt from the new restrictions, but companies will need to inform the Commerce Department when they fulfill orders for the most powerful consumer chips to ensure they are not being used in ways that pose a national security threat.
Closing Loopholes and Seeking Comments
These new restrictions may also close a loophole that allows Chinese companies to access American artificial intelligence chips through Chinese units located overseas, as reported by Reuters last week. The rules will not include restrictions on access to US cloud computing services or those of allies, but the government will seek comments on the risks associated with such access and how they can be addressed.
The Biden administration has informed Beijing of its plans to update these contentious rules as part of a policy aimed at stabilizing relations between the two superpowers.