Nvidia Sees Huawei as Formidable AI Chipmaking Rival, CEO Says

Questions about China were prominent during Jensen Huang’s visit to Singapore.

Bloomberg News

December 7, 2023

2 Min Read
Nvidia Sees Huawei as Formidable AI Chipmaking Rival, CEO Says
Nvidia CEO, Jensen HuangSipa US / Alamy

(Bloomberg) -- Huawei Technologies is among a field of “very formidable” competitors to Nvidia Corporation in the race to produce the best AI chips, according to the American company’s chief.

Huawei, Intel, and an expanding group of semiconductor startups pose a stiff challenge to Nvidia’s dominant position in the market for artificial intelligence accelerators, Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang told reporters in Singapore on Wednesday. Shenzhen-based Huawei has grown into China’s de-facto chip tech champion and returned to the spotlight this year with a surprisingly advanced made-in-China smartphone processor.

“We have a lot of competitors, in China and outside China,” Huang said. “Most of our competitors don’t really care where I am. They want to compete with us everywhere we go.”

Questions about China were prominent during Huang’s visit to Singapore, where he’s meeting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss the city-state’s strategy to compete in the global AI race. Nvidia’s chips have become the hottest commodity in the AI boom, as they provide the most efficient method for training large data models like the one underpinning ChatGPT.

But the US has raised barriers on their sale to China, further tightening China’s access to Nvidia’s AI chips in mid-October. “We cannot let China get these chips. Period,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last Saturday.

China has historically accounted for about 20% of Nvidia sales, Huang said on Wednesday, and the company will continue to adhere with trade regulations “perfectly.” He has to navigate increasingly challenging US-China trade tensions that have targeted Nvidia’s AI chips as strategically important in the balance of power between the world’s two leading economies. Nvidia will deliver a new set of products for the Chinese market that’s in line with the latest rules coming from Washington, the 60-year-old executive added.

Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia does serve Chinese customers in Singapore, Huang said. Among the biggest Chinese firms with a presence there are ByteDance Ltd., whose TikTok business is a major employer locally, as well as the international cloud operations of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Sales to customers in the city, including Chinese firms, accounted for about 15% of Nvidia’s revenue in the three months ended in October, according to a regulatory filing.

Singapore sees the expansion of its digital economy as instrumental to stimulating broader growth. It hosts less-advanced chipmaking factories operated by Globalfoundries Inc. and other global players. Nvidia’s go-to maker of AI accelerators Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and NXP Semiconductors NV also run a joint venture in the country.

Taiwan-born Huang co-founded Nvidia in the mid-1990s and is now treated to a hero’s welcome upon his return to Asia, following his company’s jump into the trillion-dollar stratosphere. Before meeting the Singapore PM, he was in Tokyo to meet Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and talk up Japan’s potential to build out a domestic AI ecosystem.

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