Chinese Entities Acquire High-End Nvidia AI Chips Despite U.S. Ban

Chinese universities and research institutes have recently acquired high-end Nvidia artificial intelligence chips through resellers, circumventing the U.S. ban on the sale of such technology to China, according to a Reuters investigation.

Despite the U.S. expanding its embargo last year to subject more chips and countries to licensing rules, ten Chinese entities were found to have obtained advanced Nvidia chips embedded in server products from companies such as Super Micro Computer Inc., Dell Technologies Inc., and Gigabyte Technology Co Ltd between November 20 and February 28.

These servers contained Nvidia’s most advanced chips, as revealed by tender documents reviewed by Reuters. While the U.S. prohibits Nvidia and its partners from directly selling advanced chips to China, the sale and purchase of these chips are not illegal within China.

The chips were sold by lesser-known Chinese retailers, and it remains unclear whether they used stockpiles acquired before the U.S. tightened chip-export restrictions in November.

When contacted by Reuters, Nvidia stated that the tender documents referred to products that were exported and widely available before the restrictions, emphasizing that none of their partners violated export control rules. The server makers also asserted their compliance with applicable laws or pledged further investigation.

Among the buyers of these high-end chips were prestigious institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Shandong Artificial Intelligence Institute, the Hubei Earthquake Administration, as well as universities and state-run research centers across China.

This revelation highlights the challenges faced by the U.S. in enforcing trade restrictions on advanced technology and underscores China’s determination to acquire cutting-edge AI chips despite regulatory barriers.