The United States has blocked the Chinese government’s access to software used in the development of military and nuclear weapons. According to the Wall Street Journal, this has not stopped Chinese companies from acquiring non-blacklisted technology from alternative sources, such as Aliexpress and Taobao.
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The United States Department of Commerce has been preventing contact with the China Academy of Engineering Physics since 1997. The CAEP’s research has aided China’s nuclear programme and led to the development of the first hydrogen bomb. It is conducted on Intel Xeon Gold CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs. There are currently hundreds of warheads in the group’s arsenal, with estimates placing that number at over 1,500 in the next ten to fifteen years.
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Even though the Trump and Biden administrations have tried to halt China’s nuclear and military research, Chinese enterprises have resorted to adopting consumer-grade CPUs and GPUs to suit their high-performance computing needs. It is “insanely complex,” according to Kevin Wolf, a former senior official in the U.S. Department of Commerce. Even though it is 2020, the CAEP is still using the Intel CPUs and NVIDIA V100 graphics cards. Around 2021, China bought more than a third of all the semiconductor chips used in supercomputers.
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A spokesperson for the United States Bureau of Industry and Security has called complete user monitoring a “large task.” Unfortunately, neither the U.S. government nor the public are in the dark regarding the CAEP’s use of the technology. What measures U.S. officials will take to stop China from further developing weapons remains unknown.
Even though the U.S. government is trying to stop it, it is scary to see China openly using technology from places like Aliexpress and Taobao for their military and nuclear research. It will be interesting to see what the U.S. government does to stop China from making more weapons.