back to article Chipmakers cripple products to dodge US China ban

Systems that once contained Nvidia and TSMC chips, which are now restricted by the US government, are popping up this week with slower specs to meet US export controls to China and evade the hassles of obtaining special licenses. Chinese server maker Inspur was spotted swapping out the its A100 Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) in …

  1. msknight

    I do wonder...

    ...whether those speeds are artificially low and can be unlocked with firmware once they've reached their destination.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: I do wonder...

      You really doubt that? This is obviously a dodge that the US government will presumably close as quickly as possible. They could say you can't offer something that uses the same chip offered in configurations that violate the rules.

      There are legitimate arguments whether the US should even be doing this, but if they're going to do it having it be easily worked around so it doesn't ban anything is the worst of all worlds.

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: I do wonder...

        Remember when you just had to install a separate .jar file from the same java.com website to unlock the high strength cryptography in Java?

    2. fg_swe Bronze badge

      Sure

      Cheating USG is a good way to land a free vacation in Club Fed.

      1. Mayday Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Sure

        “Club fed”

        Like every other time copyright breaches or piracy of US patents/intellectual property has occurred in China?

      2. Boork!

        Re: Sure

        Club FUD more like. Not that it troubles Chinese manufacturers in the slightest.

  2. badflorist Bronze badge

    USA Vs. China... not really.

    Who makes the money in this love spat? The USA and China aren't going to war or this crap so that only leaves the money to blame.... but who makes it? I see prices rising all over the place forcing people to up end their lives but I'm not seeing a reason beyond money and paranoia fueling this. It may be paranoia fueling money that's fueling paranoia, a sort of circular moral panic, but there needs to be clear reasons behind this "China Bad" if people are to care about any of it, and I care about none of it.

    1. fg_swe Bronze badge

      FALSE

      Even the rather small German Luftwaffe recently deployed five JÄGER90+Tankers to the Australia-Japan region. The German Navy sent a frigate. They operate in concert with RAAF, USN, RN, USAF and JASDF.

      https://www.bmvg.de/de/themen/dossiers/engagement-im-indopazifik

      We are in fact very close to a very hot war over the Taiwan issue.

      Let's keep the petrol( high tech) away from the fire.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USA Vs. China... not really.

      It's like it's 1938, and Chamberlain is putting together his deals with Hitler.

      And the idiot Brits are cheering him on.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember when

    I remember once upon a time when certain US export restrictions were imposed but meanwhile there were official distributors of US products in China.

    $JOB didn't ship the hardware because Export Rules but the customer in a restricted country still got the hardware via other means. We installed our software on their new shiny and collected the check.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I vaguely recall how easy it is to turn an MR-15

    into an AR-15.

    #justsayin'

  5. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Halt

    I wonder how long before the U.S. puts a halt to this so-called crippling. I can already see the Chinese simply "overclocking" these GPU's to get identical performance to the model it was derived from.

    What the U.S. had in mind was that the export of these chips would completely stop and only lower-tiered models would be exported, not vendors relabeling their products to thwart the sanctions.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Halt

      >What the U.S. had in mind was that the export of these chips would completely stop and only lower-tiered models would be exported, not vendors relabeling their products to thwart the sanctions.

      This may not be realistic. It doesn't usually pay to develop several distinct designs but rather build parts that are graded. This is why overclocking works -- the speed grade threshold are set conservatively because you don't want to annoy customers but that leaves a lot of wiggle room in the tolerances. For lower spec parts then parts either have fewer subsystems, slower clocks or disabled facilities - but the basic design is always the same.

      The government is trying to control things it doesn't really have control over. In addition its trying to force companies to forego significant sales -- its reckoned that FPGA sales of $400 million alone this year -- without any quid pro quo. This is just asking for workarounds -- or given the way that things work in the US these days -- replacement of the government by one that's more 'business friendly'.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Halt

        With increased quality binning of parts overclocking is largely dead.

      2. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

        Re: Halt

        This won't work either, since the limits stay in place whilst the design keep getting faster and faster.

        Is Nvidia going to neuter all its future designs just to work around the sanctions? What if the U.S. government finds out the Chinese are able to overclock or reprogram the IC's to get the same performance as the original part?

      3. fg_swe Bronze badge

        "FPGA Control"

        1.) Design from USA (Xilinx, Altera, AMD,...) or France

        2.) Made in Taiwan using NATO+SK+JP technology

        This looks like full control of NATO+SK+JP+ANZAC.

        FPGAs are a key component of high end electronic warfare applications and their export must be tightly controlled.

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: Halt

      No idea, but the correct way would be to toss the CEO of the offending company into the slam along with a fine consisting of the amount sold. Not profits, but sales. Let the CEO earn that inflated salary he earns by taking the big risks.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Precedent

    (*Possibly out of date info) Japan produces most of the etching materials for semiconductors, and has long reserved the highest quality materials for their own chips, which ensuring that the supply of slightly below top grade materials flowed unimpeded - or at least I was led to believe so by talking to people in the industry in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Better quality etching materials keeps the defect rate low. That is probably why good expensive Japanese monitors have a guarantee of 0 defective pixels for 5 years, whereas others tend to have guarantees of no more than 5 defective pixels for 1 or 2 years.

    So the US strategy might be actually effective - it depends on execution.

    1. fg_swe Bronze badge

      Indeed

      Given the latest signals from Chinese Leader For Lifetime, NATO+SK+Jp+ANZAC strategy works as designed. The Russian Leader for Lifetime is hopefully getting the message, too. They now have to resort to low tech Iranian drones.

    2. AVee

      Re: Precedent

      In the short term maybe. But it will force China to develop their own solutions and innovate more. Why the US thinks China cannot develop what they have developed is beyond me. In 5 to 10 years the roles might well be reversed and China will be denying the west access to their superior tech.

      1. fg_swe Bronze badge

        Chinesium

        As the saying goes "Chinesium is the weakest metal on earth".

        Of course they will try to do what you say. Until now their success is rather limited. Their key skill is treating their own people like ants(see the Covid lockdown terror and other draconian things). There is no such Chinese man like a von Ardenne, a Diesel, a Hoare, a Copernicus.

        Their nation is based on brutal repression by communism. Great minds are destroyed by that.

        Also, there is no honesty in Chinese Quality Control. How can anyone complain about bad quality, when the cause of it is a communist plant manager ? They still worship the Covid thing, even though 99,7% of populace is now naturally immune.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: 99,7% of populace is now naturally immune

          Evidence please. Current research points to immunity waning to practially useless levels after a few months.

          1. fg_swe Bronze badge

            Re: 99,7% of populace is now naturally immune

            You didn't get the memo, did you ? American Oligarchy has moved on.

          2. Boork!

            Re: 99,7% of populace is now naturally immune

            Correct me if I'm wrong, but natural immunity from Covid is more robust than the immunity from the jab, which does appear to wane after a few months and require regular boosters. The comment above referred to naturally acquired immunity.

          3. fg_swe Bronze badge

            Re: 99,7% of populace is now naturally immune

            https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19latestinsights/antibodies

            Ok, so just 95%.

            https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/office-for-national-statistics-scotland-england-wales-government-b2031918.html

            Or 98%, according to this source.

          4. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: 99,7% of populace is now naturally immune

            In response to a question about this in October, the Teesside principal investigator for the Novavax and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trials said that the latest indications are that immunity from Covid variants is short lived, to the extent that they no longer expect to see "herd immunity" effects.

            This is the same whether immunity comes from vaccination or acquired from infection.

            Oh, and the presence of testable antibodies does *NOT* mean you are "immune" and certainly not "naturally immune", whatever that is supposed to mean.

        2. crayon

          Re: Chinesium

          We're in the 3rd decade of the 21st century, you appear to be living in the 20th century. You want quality and you can afford to pay then there are plenty of manufacturers in China who can do quality. You want cheap stuff and don't mind poorer quality, there are plenty of manufacturers in China who can do cheap stuff and poorer quality. IOW you get what you pay for. Apple can afford to pay so they get quality stuff - disclaimer, have never owned any Apple products, just assuming that their high prices has some correlation to their quality.

          You need to get your skates on, otherwise the 21st century is going to leave you behind.

          1. fg_swe Bronze badge

            Re: Chinesium

            There might be pockets of excellence in China, but by and large it is a tyranny, which has grown rich. Sometimes it is hell on earth even for the Han People. Mr Xi and his father were apparently mistreated, too. Now he continues the abuse by locking his subjects into their homes in a cruel attempt of virus+innoculation bullshitting.

            In other words, one big $hithouse with lots of slaves.

            Apple produces high quality there, because they(Americans) tightly control the processes and products in Chinese factories.

            NATO business people crave for cheap labour and collaborate with the Chicoms. NATO communists ("GRÜNE") once worshipped Mao and some still play collaborateurs for our prospective enemies. Shame on us.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm old enough to remember

    when it was claimed that 486SX CPUs were merely 486DXs that had a failed FPU (and presumably there were some 487 FPUs that were really just CPU failed 486DXs).

    Same way all memory is made the same, and then tested to badge the stuff which doesn't fail at higher speeds.

  8. fg_swe Bronze badge

    Restrict Export, Save Peace

    High end weaponry needs high end semiconductors for all sorts of applications. As both the Ukraine and Taiwan fires are very real, we (NATO+SK+JP+ANZAC) need to restrict the supply of petrol to China and Russia.

    Also, other machinery, chemicals, instruments, consulting services, specialist information must not be delivered to them. This is the best way to preserve the current international order and the moderate peace we have. "Free Trade" means "putting petrol next to the fires". Or rephrasing Uljanow "do not deliver rope to the commies, which they want to use to hang their opponents".

    1. crayon

      Re: Restrict Export, Save Peace

      You're confusing high end weaponry with high tech weaponry.

      "… need to restrict the supply of petrol to China and Russia"

      How exactly do you propose to do that? Right now, even after 8 months into Russia's SMO, part of the US' supply of diesel is dependent on the continuing imports from Russia.

      If Russia is willing to sell and China is willing to buy, who is willing to stop them? And with which army?

      1. fg_swe Bronze badge

        Re: Restrict Export, Save Peace

        Both countries must be denied high end electronics, tool machines, chemicals and so on. That would be used to build advanced weapons.

        Just look at HIMARS - what makes it extremely dangerous is the reliable GNSS receiver and flight guidance mechanism. One HIMARS is worth easily 100 "dumb" rocket launchers.

        Other advanced weapons need even more electronics+informatics, which I will not elaborate here, as we already have enough fires.

        Diesel we can make out of coal, if push comes to shove. Look up LEUNA.

        1. fg_swe Bronze badge

          Re: Restrict Export, Save Peace

          Even in 39-45, information superiority was key. Germany was bled to economic death by that. Japan was literally destroyed by information superiority. Everybody can now make a warhead and a missile, but only a few can deliver them anywhere, under any condition.

          So, if information superiority is key, we must deny information and information technology to our potential enemies.

          Kinetics has been secondary to information since at least 1939, maybe 1917.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why don't they just cut to the chase and have a war ...

    Preferably a nuclear one - I'll buy the popcorn

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