China Advances AI Chip Autonomy Amid US Restrictions, Faces High-End Development Hurdles

China remains committed to AI chip autonomy, facing constraints in high-end chip evolution amidst US sanctions, reveals TrendForce’s analysis.
China Enhances AI Chip Self-SufficiencyHuawei’s strides in AI chip R&D culminated in the launch of the Ascend 910B, spearheading China’s quest for self-sufficiency. The chip found its way into Huawei’s infrastructure and was also distributed to other Chinese firms, with Baidu procuring a significant number for AI server construction. The collaboration of iFlytek and Huawei led to the Gemini Star Program’s release, featuring the Ascend 910B, according to TrendForce’s research.

However, production risks loom, tied to SMIC’s N+2 process capacity allocation predominantly to Huawei’s smartphones, potentially impeding AI chip production. The Entity List inclusion of SMIC poses further challenges, limiting access to advanced manufacturing equipment.

Market Analysis: Ascend 910B vs. Global Counterparts

Despite the Ascend 910B’s performance slightly trailing behind some counterparts like NVIDIA’s A800 series, its distinct software ecosystem, differing from CUDA, affects usage efficiency. Nonetheless, amidst escalating US restrictions, Chinese manufacturers may pivot toward the Ascend 910B, fostering potential for China’s AI ecosystem expansion.

Chinese CSPs Respond to Sanctions, Forge Ahead in Autonomous Chip Development

Baidu and Alibaba pivot towards autonomous AI chip development in response to US sanctions. Baidu’s Kunlunxin, evolving through multiple generations, and Alibaba’s Hanguang 800 underline this shift. Leveraging Huawei’s Ascend 910B and advancing Kunlunxin aim to fortify their AI infrastructure.

US Sanctions Pose Limitations on High-End AI Chip Development

US sanctions, spanning software and hardware domains, curtail China’s AI chip progress. Recent Entity List additions and stringent regulations on export of advanced manufacturing processes pose hurdles. Restrictions on EDA semiconductor design software further impede China’s access to cutting-edge technologies, foreseeably impacting future chip development.

TrendForce forecasts prolonged challenges for China in adopting advanced processes and developing higher-performance AI chips due to escalating restrictions.

The drive for AI chip autonomy in China persists, but with barriers hindering high-end evolution, the landscape remains challenging amid escalating geopolitical constraints.