The US has just escalated its AI chip war with China

At an event in Beijing this week, Chinese search giant Baidu announced a new version of its most powerful language model called Ernie 4.0. According to Baidu, the performance of this model is equivalent to that of the AI ​​model behind ChatGPT. The company said it used tens of thousands of chips to train Ernie 4.0. The type of chip used was not specified, but a source at the company, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed that Nvidia chips were used.

The new rules ban companies from selling chips based on their computing speed and power density, which is the amount of computing power packed into a square area. The U.S. government did not name the H800 chip, but it is widely seen as a target of the new controls.

Allen says new restrictions on chip-making equipment may be as important as the stricter rules on sales of AI training chips. These rules ban the sale of some devices entirely, while previous controls depended on their end use and prevented Chinese companies from acquiring devices by disguising what they intended to do with them.

“These controls maintain our clear focus on military applications and address the threats to our national security posed by the government of the People’s Republic of China’s military-civilian fusion strategy,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement from the Office of Industry and Security Department of Commerce.

The government’s 2022 restrictions have proven controversial among some U.S. chipmakers He is reportedly reluctant to do so the prospect of further controls.

The Semiconductor Industry Association, a panel representing U.S. chip companies, issued a statement in response to the new restrictions expressing concern. “We recognize the need to protect national security and believe that maintaining a healthy U.S. semiconductor industry is an essential part of achieving this goal,” the statement said. “Overly broad, unilateral controls risk harming the U.S. semiconductor ecosystem without improving national security by encouraging foreign customers to look elsewhere.” Accordingly, we urge the government to coordinate with Strengthen allies to ensure a level playing field for all companies.”

U.S. chip restrictions may have helped boost China’s domestic chip industry, which is believed to be many years behind those of the United States, Taiwan and South Korea. In September, Huawei, a company particularly targeted by U.S. export controls, announced the Mate 60, a smartphone with a 7-nanometer chip made by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, China’s most advanced chipmaker. The 7-nanometer manufacturing process is relatively advanced, suggesting that SMIC has made technical advances faster than expected or was able to circumvent export controls.

The tighter controls also come at a difficult diplomatic time as the US government seeks to improve relations with China. Members of the Biden administration have traveled to Beijing in recent months to meet with Chinese officials. President Biden could meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month at a meeting of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) members in San Francisco.

“The US must stop politicizing and weaponizing trade and technology issues and destabilizing the global industrial and supply chain,” said Mao Ning, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. said yesterday in response to a question about a possible tightening of restrictions.

The U.S. probably won’t do that, says Chris Miller, an associate professor at Tufts University and author of Chip war, a 2022 book about the geopolitical role of semiconductors. “The new rules specifically list technology transfer to several of China’s leading AI chip design firms,” ​​he says, and could be updated annually. “Tensions” over chips – and the AI ​​capabilities they enable – are likely to remain at the center of China-US relations, says Miller.

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