Thanks to a licensing deal with AMD and a complex joint-venture arrangement, the Chinese chip producer Chengdu Haiguang IC Design Co. (Hygon) is now producing x86-based server processors that are largely indistinguishable from AMD’s EPYC processors—so close in design that Linux kernel developers had to do little in the way of patching to support the new processor family, called “Dhyana.” The server chips are being manufactured for domestic use only—part of an effort to break China’s dependence on foreign technology companies.
Since the Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency efforts to use implants in technology products to conduct foreign intelligence collection, China has been applying increasing pressure on US technology providers. The country hopes to bolster its own domestic technology industry through strict new information security regulations and investment in domestic suppliers.
The need for a domestic producer of high-performance server processors has also been driven by US export restrictions to China—in 2015, the administration of President Barack Obama blocked a sale of Intel Xeon processors for China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer over concerns that the sale would aid China’s nuclear weapons program. Export of high-performance processors to China have been restricted ever since, and the US government has also moved to prevent China from acquiring technology companies in the past over national security concerns.