Chinese Entities Continue Acquiring Banned NVIDIA Accelerators
Despite a ban imposed in September 2022, Chinese organizations are still procuring NVIDIA accelerators for artificial intelligence systems. This was initially imposed on A100 and H100 accelerators, after which NVIDIA offered A800 and H100 versions adjusted to meet U.S. authorities’ requirements. By October, these were also prohibited, but tender documentation shows that Chinese entities continue to procure these components even now.
As reported by Reuters, Chinese companies and academic institutions have been hosting tenders for specific components. Analysis of the documentation allows the agency to confirm that deliveries of A100 and H100 accelerators to China have continued since last fall, with Chinese developers still purchasing A800 and H800 accelerators. However, the amounts are incredibly small. For instance, the tenders describe the supply of just one or at most five accelerators.
Expert sources express doubts regarding recipients’ capability to build substantial AI systems using such a limited quantity of accelerators. Platforms such as ChatGPT, for example, require at least 30,000 NVIDIA accelerators. The minor shipments are likely used to bump system performance slightly or replace failed components.
Notwithstanding the restrictions, Tsinghua University, considered one of China’s most powerful research organizations by American authorities, managed to acquire about 80 NVIDIA A100 accelerators since the fall of 2022. The tender documents from various Chinese organizations specify that the NVIDIA accelerators delivered must not be second-hand or repurposed from other computing solutions. It reflects the state of the Chinese market – under sanctions, suppliers are resorting to all available subterfuges. Reuters found documents relating to over a hundred transactions involving state organizations in China purchasing NVIDIA A100 accelerators, and dozens of deals for A800 models, all occurring during the U.S. sanctions period.