Five U.S-China Chip Stories
BLUF: The chip industry is a hot topic these days and is garnering lots of main stream coverage. This post summarizes 5 under-covered news stories related to U.S.-China semiconductor competition: (1) Huawei selling its server division, (2) Alibaba’s new chip, (3) BIS licenses to SMIC, (4) Arm China, and (5) CSET on Chinese military use of U.S. semiconductor tech.
Huawei to sell key server division due to U.S. blacklisting
“Huawei Technologies Co. is in advanced talks to sell its x86 server business after the U.S. blacklisting of the company made it difficult to secure processors from Intel Corp… Henan Information Industry Investment Co Ltd, a state-owned firm that has been a partner of x86 and consumer electronics maker Huaqin Technology Co Ltd along with an asset management company representing the Hubei provincial government are involved in the talks.” From Reuters.
Alibaba’s silicon chip in the age of hypersonic missiles
“Although the design of the Yitian 710 is purely Chinese, the bulk of the underlying IP used to build the chip comes mostly from the U.S. and the United Kingdom, along with a smattering of other key technologies from European and Asian companies. While the performance benchmarks and design of the Yitian show that Alibaba chip designers are already world class, there is no chance such a chip could be manufactured in China, and almost all the core elements of the chip do not originate in China.” From SupChina.
U.S. Issued $100 Billion in Export Licenses to Suppliers of Huawei, SMIC
“BIS approved 188 licenses valued at $42 billion for suppliers of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., China’s largest chip maker, from Nov. 9, 2020, through April 20 this year.” Considering SMIC’s forecasted CapEx for all of 2021 was ~4.3 billion, it’s not clear what SMIC could possibly do with $42 billion of semiconductor manufacturing equipment (or why they’d want it). From the WSJ.
Can Arm fend off Allen Wu’s latest autonomy moves? (no)
“The Chinese branch of the British chip designer Arm Ltd., announced on Aug. 26 it is now an “independently operated and Chinese-controlled” company… Arm China had created an “Open NPU Innovation Alliance” (ONIA) in June, with Wu as the alliance’s chairman. The alliance’s website says the NPU’s ISA is open source and will be promoted globally, following a business model that seems similar to RISC-V Alliance’s. While intended for worldwide participation, so far all alliance members are Chinese entities. Besides Arm China, the 54 members include AllWinner, Changan Auto, Rockchips, Sword7, Sanechips (ZTE), TCL, and Tsinghua University. This alliance has the potential to compete directly with Arm’s own NPU cores.” From TechNode.
Harnessed Lightning: How the Chinese Military is Adopting Artificial Intelligence
PLA units and defense SOEs continue to procure or collaborate with systems derived from U.S. chip firms like Intel, NVIDIA and Xilinx, and sometimes purchase these processors, themselves, through intermediary companies. From CSET.
“The PLA is using AI in multisource data fusion for foreign military analysis, including textual analysis of foreign-language documents. In the fall of 2020, the PLAGF awarded two contracts for “foreign military equipment intelligent document data resources”; and in November, an unspecified PLASSF unit ordered a “multilingual intelligent text processing system” from Nanjing Glaucus-Tech Co., Ltd. On its website, Glaucus-Tech advertises the “GL-AI Speech Recognition System 001,” which can apparently translate foreign languages into Chinese with 80 percent accuracy, at a rate of 20 words every 150 milliseconds. The company’s products rely on NVIDIA processors as components, including the Tesla P40 GPU.”
“The PLA Ground Force awarded a contract to 4Paradigm, one of the largest enterprise AI companies in China, for a “battalion and company command decision-making model and human-machine teaming software.” 4Paradigm advertises a wide array of products and services, including software-defined computing platforms and an “automatic decision-making machine learning platform” called Sage HyperCycle. As of January 2021, the company was cooperating on Very Large Database research with Intel and the National University of Singapore. Paradigm’s angel investor, Sequoia Capital, remains its largest outside shareholder.”