Chip designer Nvidia says US officials told it to stop exporting two cutting-edge computer chips for artificial intelligence work to China, a move that could cripple Chinese companies’ ability to do advanced work such as image recognition.

The company said on Wednesday that the ban, which affects its A100 and H100 chips designed to speed up machine learning tasks, could interfere with the completion of development of the H100, the flagship chip announced by Nvidia this year.

Nvidia said U.S. officials told it the new rule “will address the risk that covered products may be used in or diverted to a ‘military end-use’ or ‘military end-user’ in China.”

Asked for comment, the US Department of Commerce would not say what new criteria it has set for AI chips that can no longer be shipped to China, but said it was reviewing its policies and practices related to the China “to prevent advanced technologies from being mistaken”. hands.

“While we are unable to outline specific policy changes at this time, we are taking a comprehensive approach to implementing additional necessary actions related to technologies, end uses, and end users to protect U.S. national security. and foreign policy interests,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

The announcement signals a major escalation in the US crackdown on China’s tech capabilities as tensions boil over the fate of Taiwan, where chips for Nvidia and nearly every other major chip company are made.

A spokesperson for rival AMD told Reuters the company had received new licensing requirements that would prevent the export of its MI250 artificial intelligence chips to China, but it believes its MI100 chips will not be affected. .

Without American chips from companies like Nvidia and AMD, Chinese organizations won’t be able to cost-effectively perform the kind of advanced computing used for image and speech recognition, among many other tasks.

Image recognition and natural language processing are common in consumer apps such as smartphones that can respond to queries and tag photos. They also have military uses such as searching satellite images for weapons or bases and filtering digital communications for intelligence gathering purposes.

Nvidia said it recorded $400 million in sales of the affected chips to China this quarter, which could be lost if Chinese companies decide not to purchase alternative Nvidia products. He said he planned to seek exemptions from the rule but had “no assurance” that US authorities would grant them.