In the AI race with China, the U.S. government is now restricting the export of Nvidia's AI chips to the Middle East.
The Biden administration has imposed new restrictions on the export of Nvidia's most advanced AI chips to certain Middle Eastern countries. This is due to concerns that the chips could end up in China.
The move is part of U.S. efforts to limit Beijing's access to critical AI technology as a race for computing power develops between the U.S. and China.
US fears China could use a backdoor to access Nvidia GPUs
Nvidia, the world's largest maker of AI chips with more than $1 trillion in sales, must now obtain U.S. government approval before exporting its high-performance H100 and A100 chips to certain buyers in the Middle East. Although the countries involved have not been named, the U.S. fears that countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates could resell the chips to China, according to a report in The Guardian.
The two Gulf states have recently strengthened their AI ties with China, ordering thousands of Nvidia's sought-after H100 AI chips. In addition, Chinese researchers have a strong presence at the Saudi research institution King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust), according to The Guardian. The United Arab Emirates has also already been identified by the U.S. as a potential "transshipment point" used by Russia to evade sanctions, it added.
Given the shortage in China, U.S. officials are also concerned that state-affiliated Chinese companies could be training AI systems abroad, a senior U.S. trade lawyer told The Guardian.
More restrictions for Nvidia likely ahead
Advanced AI chips like Nvidia's are essential for training sophisticated models like ChatGPT. As artificial intelligence becomes increasingly important to the economy and national security, a race for computing power is developing between the U.S. and China.
The Biden administration has already banned the sale of Nvidia's top-of-the-line chips to China and Russia over security concerns. In response, the company has developed less powerful versions that could be sold in China. The U.S. government is reportedly planning to ban those as well.