U.S. Govt Mulls Blocking China's Access to Cloud GPUs

GeForce RTX 4090
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Although the U.S. government has restricted sales of advanced AI and HPC GPUs to Chinese entities, it did not block access of Chinese companies to such processors in the cloud. As a result, Chinese firms can continue to train large language models or do other performance-demanding tasks using services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. But the American government is considering patching this hole, reports Nikkei. There is a catch, though: the U.S. cannot block access to cloud services not in the U.S.

The United States is evaluating the imposition of restrictions to hinder China’s access to U.S.-based cloud computing services, a move driven by concerns over Beijing’s use of artificial intelligence in military operations, said Alan Estevez, U.S. under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security. If the decision is made, it will come as part of a broader initiative to regulate technological resources that could facilitate advancements in military AI applications by China.

“We are looking at what the best way to control that if we can, is, and that requires consultation with industry,” Alan Estevez, U.S. under secretary of commerce for industry and security, told Nikkei Asia. “Cloud-based technologies are already fairly ubiquitous. […] Now, AI itself is also fairly ubiquitous. The concern is ... AI in the future will probably command and control military logistics [and] military radar, [and] electronic warfare capabilities will be advanced. So we want to make sure that we are controlling the use.”

Further elaborating on the planned restrictions, Estevez mentioned that a conscientious approach involving industry consultations is imperative. This is essential to devise a strategy that balances adequate regulatory controls without obstructing industrial innovation and development.

The enhanced regulatory measures symbolize a concerted U.S. effort to mitigate the risk associated with the potential utilization of American technological resources in promoting Chinese military innovations, specifically in AI. There is a significant catch that almost nullifies the effort. The U.S. government does not seem to be able to block access of Chinese entities to cloud services provided by non-American companies. There are prominent cloud services in Europe and the Middle East, so Chinese companies will start using them instead of AWS or Azure.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • bit_user
    They can try, but this sounds difficult to enforce. Not that it's not worth doing, but you've got to expect the impact to be limited.
  • atomicWAR
    While I agree with the move, I also agree with bit_user that the impact will likely be limited. Interesting development...thanks for the coverage Toms.
  • williamcll
    They can just build their own internet firewall and just IP ban every Chinese IP and and VPN exit node.

    Yes I get the irony.