“Absolutely, Chinese firms are purchasing chips for use in data centres abroad,” said Greg Allen, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noting that Singapore is a big hub for cloud computing.
The Commerce Department declined to comment. A representative from the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China’s Ministry of Commerce has previously accused the US of abusing export controls and called for it to “stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies”.
While it would be illegal under US law to ship those AI chips to mainland China, it is very difficult for the United States to police those transactions, experts said, noting that China-based employees could legally access the chips located at foreign subsidiaries remotely as well.
“We don’t actually know how big a problem this is,” said Hanna Dohmen, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET).
The United States has been seeking to halt the rise of China’s artificial intelligence capability, which helps its military develop unmanned combat systems, according to a report in The International Affairs Review, affiliated with George Washington University’s School of International Affairs.