China Circumvents US Restrictions, Still Acquiring NVIDIA GPUs

A recent Reuters investigation has uncovered evidence suggesting Chinese universities and research institutes may have circumvented US sanctions on high-performance NVIDIA GPUs by purchasing servers containing the restricted chips. The sanctions tightened on November 17, 2023, prohibit the export of advanced NVIDIA GPUs like the consumer GeForce RTX 4090 to China. Despite these restrictions, Reuters found that at least ten China-based organizations acquired servers equipped with the sanctioned NVIDIA GPUs between November 20, 2023, and February 28, 2024. These servers were purchased from major vendors such as Dell, Gigabyte, and Supermicro, raising concerns about potential sanctions evasion. When contacted by Reuters, the companies provided varying responses.

Dell stated that it had not observed any instances of servers with restricted chips being shipped to China and expressed willingness to terminate relationships with resellers found to be violating export control regulations. Gigabyte, on the other hand, stated that it adheres to Taiwanese laws and international regulations. Notably, the sale and purchase of the sanctioned GPUs are not illegal in China. This raises the possibility that the restricted NVIDIA chips may have already been present in the country before the sanctions took effect on November 17, 2023. The findings highlight the challenges in enforcing export controls on advanced technologies, particularly in the realm of high-performance computing hardware. As tensions between the US and China continue to rise, the potential for further tightening of export restrictions on cutting-edge technologies remains a possibility.