Nvidia’s top AI chips are sold illegally for $20,000.

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Small batches are delivered in circumvention of sanctions

Due to US sanctions, China is officially prohibited from supplying American technology, including chips based on artificial intelligence technologies.

However, popular electronics districts in different parts of China allow you to purchase them. At least two suppliers in China, who spoke to the Reuters editor on condition of anonymity, said they could sell a small number of Nvidia A100 chips for $20,000 each, double the regular price.

Although buying or selling high-quality US chips is not considered illegal in China, US export restrictions have created an underground market where sellers tend not to attract the attention of either US or Chinese authorities.

Nvidia's top AI chips
Nvidia’s top AI chips

Nvidia’s top AI chips are sold illegally for $20,000.

The Joe Biden administration in September ordered Nvidia to stop exporting two of its most advanced chips, the A100 and H100, to mainland China and Hong Kong, as part of efforts to curb the development of Chinese AI and supercomputing. With the success of ChatGPT, the demand for high-performance chips has skyrocketed, especially for Nvidia microprocessors, which are considered the best for solving machine learning problems.

“We are currently negotiating with two vendors to get some chips,” said Ivan Lau, co-founder of the Hong Kong-based Pantheon lab, which is trying to get some A100 chips to run the latest AI models. At the same time, suppliers immediately warn that there will be no guarantee.

Reuters spoke to 10 suppliers in Hong Kong and mainland China who said they could easily source small quantities of the A100. The information underscored both the high demand for chips in China and the relative ease with which Washington sanctions can be circumvented for small-scale transactions.

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Reuters was unable to estimate the total volume of Nvidia A100 and H100 chips coming to China. The buyers are typically app developers, startups, researchers, or gamers, according to vendors. One of the sellers said local Chinese authorities were also among the buyers.

Nvidia said in a statement to Reuters that it does not allow the A100 or H100 to be exported to China.