China has been actively pursuing advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) for military purposes, but has faced limited access to the most advanced chips from the United States. In an attempt to hinder China’s progress, the US has imposed export controls and restrictions on the sale of high-performance chips used for training AI systems. Despite these measures, Chinese orders for the latest advanced chips, particularly from Nvidia, have continued to surge, amounting to $5 billion worth of orders from China’s leading internet companies.
Although the chips sold in China have been intentionally limited in their capabilities, they still outperform previous options available in the country. To comply with the export controls, Nvidia has reduced the data transfer rate on its processors, creating modified versions specifically for the Chinese market. For example, the H800 chips, designed to train large language models, have a lower transfer rate compared to their global counterparts. While this limitation increases training times and costs for Chinese users, the H800 chips are still significantly more powerful than any other chips available in China.
Experts believe that the US export controls may have a greater impact in the future, as training requirements for advanced AI systems continue to increase. Bill Dally, Nvidia’s chief scientist, predicts that the gap between chips sold in China and those available elsewhere in the world will widen rapidly. This indicates that China’s demand for these advanced chips is driven not only by their current capabilities but also by concerns about potential future restrictions.
Chinese tech companies rely on Nvidia’s chips for pre-training large language models due to their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Despite alternatives with lower prices and faster service, Nvidia’s chips are still considered the most suitable option for meeting the demanding performance and data transfer requirements of pre-training AI models.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
Q: Why has China’s demand for Nvidia chips increased despite US export controls?
A: The restricted access to advanced chips in China has led to a surge in orders for Nvidia chips because even the limited versions available in China outperform previous options.
Q: What limitations do the modified versions of Nvidia chips in China have?
A: The modified chips have a lower data transfer rate, resulting in longer training times and increased costs for users. However, they are still more powerful than any other chips previously available in China.