Business / Technology

Experts blast US for blocking supercomputer tech exports to China

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-04-10 09:43

WASHINGTON - The US government has been blocking technology exports to facilities in China associated with Tianhe-2, the world's fastest supercomputer, a move blasted by experts as an apparent attempt to stifle competition in the field of high performance computing from the Asian nation.

The export restrictions, which were introduced by the Commerce Department in a notice dated Feb 18 and can be found on the Federal Register website, almost went on unnoticed until this week.

According to the notice, four Chinese supercomputing centers associated with Tianhe-2 were placed on the so-called "Denial List " since the US government alleged that they "have been involved in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."

The affected centers are the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), the National Supercomputing Center in Changsha, Hunan province, the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin.

"Specifically, NUDT has used US-origin multicores, boards, and (co)processors to produce the Tianhe1A and Tianhe2 supercomputers located at the National Supercomputing Centers in Changsha, Guangzhou, and Tianjin. The Tianhe1A and Tianhe2 supercomputers are believed to be used in nuclear explosive activities," the notice alleged.

Tianhe-2, which literally means "Milky Way-2" in Chinese, took the top spot in 2013 of a biannual list of supercomputers, run by Top500, a group that ranks the world's fastest computers. It was able to operate at 33.86 petaflops per second, the equivalent of 33,860 quadrillion calculations per second.

Industry experts believe Tianhe-2 could hold the world's fastest supercomputer title till 2018, when the US is expected to release its versions of two supercomputers three to five times faster than the Chinese system through an investment of $325 million.

Coincidentally, the US Department of Energy announced Thursday that it will give the Argonne National Laboratory another $200 million to develop a third next-generation supercomputer, known as Aurora.

According to the Top500 list released last November, the United States, as a user of supercomputers, was at the top with 231 systems, while China came in the second place with 61 systems.

Jack Dongarra, professor of the University of Tennessee and the Top500 list editor, criticized the US export restrictions and said that Intel, which supplied two kinds of processors to Tianhe- 2, will lose the sales of these components.

"The US government is trying to stop the spread of high performance computer systems in China," Dongarra told Xinhua. "The ban will probably accelerate the development of a processor designed in China for use in high performance computers."

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