The US Commerce Department on Friday detailed new restrictions on American companies from doing business with five Chinese entities that make supercomputers and supercomputer components.
The Commerce Department said it is placing Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology, Higon, Sugon and Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology on its “Entity List” of businesses that threaten America’s national security, according to an unpublished Federal Register notice. The notice does not make clear when the rule goes into effect.
The Commerce Department said the companies use their supercomputers and components for military and nuclear purposes. US companies won’t be able to export components to the five listed companies without a license. The restrictions are similar to the ones the United States recently placed on Huawei.
The United States and China have been embroiled in a bitter battle over supercomputer dominance for years. The United States has long stated that holding the most powerful supercomputers are crucial for national security.
Supercomputers are used for scientific research, including medical treatments and weather prediction. But they are also used for military and nuclear modeling around the world.
The US Department of Energy holds the world’s fastest supercomputer in its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The supercomputer, called Summit, is capable of 148 quadrillion — one million billion — calculations per second. That’s nearly 30,000 times faster than an iPhone Xs.
The United States has held the fastest supercomputer title since June 2018, according to the Top500, an independent study of the world’s supercomputers. China had held the No. 1 position from November 2013 until June 2018. Before then, the United States had consistently topped the list.
Of the top 500 supercomputers, China holds the largest number of systems: 219. The United States has only 116 of the 500 fastest computers in the world.
But the United States’ horde of supercomputers controls 38.4% of the supercomputing power. It houses the top two systems in the world, which alone represent 15.6% of the world’s supercomputing power, according to Top500.
China controls just under 30% of the world’s supercomputing power.
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