U.S. Bans Intel Xeon Chip Sales To China Over Nuclear Fears


U.S. government agencies previously banned four Chinese supercomputer institutions from receiving certain U.S. exports in February, and Intel’s business looks set to suffer. The institutions, including China’s National University of Defense Technology, are responsible for building Tianhe-2, the fastest supercomputer in the world, and Tianhe-1A, writes Michael Kan for PC World.

Intel complies with official order

The U.S. Department of Commerce alleges that the two supercomputers have been used for “nuclear explosive activities.” In August last year the DoC told Intel that it could only ship its Xeon and Xeon Phi parts if it had an export license.The chips were to be shipped to Inspur, a Chinese server and supercomputing provider.

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“Intel complied with the notification and applied for the license which was denied. We are in compliance with the U.S. law,” said Intel.

A government committee featuring representatives from the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense, State and others decide what companies and institutions should feature on the list. Inspur was not named, however the four Chinese institutions that were had been found to be “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” the Department of Commerce’s notice said.

The National Supercomputing Center of Guangzhou, which features on the list and is responsible for operating the Tianhe-2, declined to comment. “We are not very clear on this situation,” stated an employee.

Blow to business

Business will suffer due to the ban, which ends years of Intel sales to Chinese supercomputer projects. Intel has been a major partner in China’s drive to build faster supercomputers. One potential effect of the ban could be the acceleration of existing efforts to develop domestically produced processors in China.

Technology is an increasing sore point between the U.S. and China. A 2012 U.S. congressional committee concluded that Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE posed a national security threat due to their reported links to the Chinese government.

Efforts within China to upgrade IT infrastructure in order to improve security may affect the ability of U.S. businesses to sell hardware and services in the huge Chinese market. This may be the first step in a process which makes it increasingly difficult for companies such as Intel to sell their goods.