As tensions between the U.S. and China continue to simmer, the U.S. government today added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to an economic blacklist. The U.S. Entity List bars U.S. firms from supplying key technologies to organizations believed to pose a significant threat to U.S. interests.
Citing national security concerns, the Department of Commerce announced a ruling that adds these seven entities to the list: Tianjin Phytium Information Technology, Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center, Sunway Microelectronics, the National Supercomputing Center Jinan, the National Supercomputing Center Shenzhen, the National Supercomputing Center Wuxi, and the National Supercomputing Center Zhengzhou.
The Biden administration is concerned these organizations are using advanced computing capabilities for military pursuits that are contrary to American national security.
“These entities are involved with building supercomputers used by China’s military actors, its destabilizing military modernization efforts, and/or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs,” officials with the Commerce Department wrote in a public notice.
“Supercomputing capabilities are vital for the development of many – perhaps almost all – modern weapons and national security systems, such as nuclear weapons and hypersonic weapons,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo declared in a written statement, adding “the Department of Commerce will use the full extent of its authorities to prevent China from leveraging U.S. technologies to support these destabilizing military modernization efforts.”
The National Supercomputing Center Wuxi, located northwest of Shanghai, operates the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, which was ranked number one in the world from June 2016 to June 2018. TaihuLight was built primarily using indigenous Chinese technologies, except for its interconnect technology, which is based on Nvidia-Mellanox HDR InfiniBand. The system’s manufacturer Sunway, which has also been named to the Entity List, is currently developing an exascale system, based on Chinese technologies.
The last time Chinese supercomputing organizations were added to the blacklist was in June 2019, impacting Sugon, Higon, Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology, and Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology. The move reportedly derailed Sugon’s plans to debut a new 300+ petaflops system that would have topped the supercomputing charts.
Further back in 2015, the following Chinese organizations were placed on the Entity List: National University of Defense Technology, the National Supercomputing Center in Changsha, National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou (NSCC–GZ), and the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin.
The fastest publicly-announced supercomputer in the world currently is Fugaku in Japan. It earned its number-one spot on the Top500 list in June 2020 with a Linpack score of 415.5, and increased its lead in November 2020 with an improved Linpack rating of 442 petaflops.
Published by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the Entity List notifies the public about persons or organizations that have engaged in activities that could result in “an increased risk of the diversion of exported, reexported or transferred (in-country) items to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.”