Chinese troops using US semiconductors to train combat AI, reports say

According to a new report, the Chinese military is buying semiconductors designed by US companies and manufactured in Taiwan and South Korea to accelerate the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the June report, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made “significant progress” in adapting AI to combat and assistive technology (June report (June report).pdf), Published by the Security and Emerging Technologies Center of Georgetown University (CSET).

Through an analysis of the 66,000 public contracts issued by PLA, the report authors found only 24 dealing with the purchase of high-end chip types used in AI applications. Most of it was American design.

“Despite the more aggressive efforts of the Trump and Biden administrations to limit technology exports to the Chinese army, the People’s Liberation Army ordered AI chips designed by U.S. companies and manufactured in Taiwan and South Korea. “There is,” the report said.

“Almost all of the 97 individual AI chips identified in the public PLA purchase record were designed by Nvidia, Xilinx (now AMD), Intel, or Microsemi.”

China relies on high-end US semiconductors

PLA has been steadily advancing AI capabilities since it was announced by the Chinese Communist Party government in 2017. Release “New generation AI development plan”. The document outlined a regime plan to achieve global dominance with AI by 2030.

To pursue that goal, PLA has sought to significantly expand and enhance AI capabilities, but the ability to train its own advanced machine learning systems is now designed by US companies, according to the CSET report. It relies on access to top-notch semiconductors.

In fact, of the 97 AI chips explicitly listed for purchase in the PLA contract, only one was from Fudan Microelectronics in China, one of which was a clone of an American design. ..

“I searched for records of PLA units or state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that signed contracts for AI chips designed in China, but couldn’t find them … In fact, most of the contracts that mention these companies are CPUs. And other processors, but nothing for AI chips, “the report said.

This discrepancy provides new insights into how heavily the Chinese military relies on US products to drive cutting-edge research. But this isn’t the first time a US-designed chip has invaded the government’s national security system.

Not the first US chip in China

Intel and Nvidia got caught up in the dispute in 2020. At that time, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) detained more than one million Muslim minorities in concentrated camps.

Previous CSET report (pdf) Also, at the same time that Intel conducted a survey with Chinese company 4Paradigm, it was found that the company had an open contract to develop AI decision-making software for PLA.

The Communist Victims of Communist Foundation, a Washington-based advocacy group, has provided Intel with “direct support” to the PLA, among other things: “Beijing’s military modernization, surveillance, domestic securitization and associated human rights abuses.”

Therefore, the emergence of Intel and Nvidia technologies at the heart of the People’s Liberation Army’s AI research shows how technologies developed by US companies are strengthening CCP and its military development through large-scale technology transfers. Here is one example.

The report also quasi-legally obtains state-of-the-art technology by leveraging front organizations to purchase on behalf of China when the Chinese communist regime is completely forbidden to do so. It also sheds light on how you can keep going.

As a related CSET fact sheet (pdf) Regarding the enhanced issue, “These previously unknown cases help the Chinese military use an intermediate supplier to access US-designed AI chips and support military modernization. Prove that you are. “

Chinese army is a US semiconductor end user

The CSET report also highlights significant tensions at the heart of US export policy and China’s technological rise. The emphasis on so-called “dual-use” technologies that can be used for both civilian and military applications in combination with military-civil fusion policies is sufficient for all exports of such technologies to mainland China by PLA. It means that it may be utilized.

Despite that risk, the report states that the $ 600 billion global market for semiconductors means that US tech companies are willing to slow down the flow of such technology.

This is one of the problems, given that the US government is currently restricting exports based on end-user control. In other words, the Chinese military cannot practically prevent the acquisition of high-end chips through third parties.

To that end, the report authors suggest that the United States implement stricter export controls that focus on the physical and technical characteristics of the chip itself, rather than the chip’s intended application or end user. doing.

“In each case, the PLA unit and the state-owned defense company have given a contract for a chip designed by the United States to a Chinese intermediary,” the report said.

“To effectively limit China’s military progress in AI and other cutting-edge technologies, the U.S. government has taken a new and creative form that goes beyond the current focus on visible end-use and end-users. Export control must be adopted. “

Only by changing the underlying specifications of export control, according to the report, could the United States adequately counter the fact that the People’s Liberation Army is an end user of US semiconductors in everything but its name.

“We reiterate that none of the seven PLAAI chip suppliers identified in this study are named on either the US entity list or the military end-user list,” the report said.

“Parliament approves and the Ministry of Commerce needs to create a multilateral export control system based on the physical and technical characteristics of the technology exported to China, including high-end semiconductors.”

Andrew Thornbrook


Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times, which deals with China-related issues with a focus on defense, military and national security. He holds a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University.