AI giant Baidu shrugs off US chip export restrictions as having 'little impact'

Says sanctions could even accelerate China's drive for silicon self-sufficiency

Chinese AI and search giant Baidu has shrugged off the impact of the United States' ban on export of certain semiconductor technologies to the Middle Kingdom, saying it will not have any noteworthy effect on its AI business or autonomous driving operations, and may indeed accelerate China's drive for silicon self-sufficiency.

Speaking on the company's Q3 2022 earnings call, executive vice president and head of AI Cloud group Dou Shen described the impact of US sanctions as "limited" – at least in the near future.

Shen explained that Baidu's AI business does not rely "too much" on highly advanced chips, and said the company has stockpiled parts it needs to carry on as usual. The VP added that Baidu can find "some alternatives to the restricted chips."

"We have the technologies to use these alternatives to achieve most of the same effectiveness and efficiency in our AI Cloud and wider AI businesses," said Chen, pointing out that automotive chips are not on the prohibited list, so in-vehicle computing is not affected.

Baidu has its own AI chip, called Kunlun. Shen said Kunlun is already used to serve external customers.

"We expect to see more auto parts, including core chips, to be manufactured in China in the future," said the veep. Shen said this will translate to the auto industry supply chain possibly becoming less reliant on imports.

In October, the Biden administration enacted export restrictions that effectively barred several Chinese entities from importing American chip design and manufacturing tools.

The industry has already seen companies produce workarounds by making chips with nerfed performance so they squeak under the export restriction threshold.

China's homegrown chips have thus far lagged behind the banned ones – but there are signs the Middle Kingdom is catching up. Two processors that rival the performance of AMD and Intel chips are expected in 2023.

In addition to the claim that Baidu is doing just fine with chips after all thanks mate, Baidu's Q3 2022 earnings report revealed a 24 percent increase year-on-year in AI Cloud revenue to $630 million in the quarter. Total revenues were up two percent year-on-year to $4.5 billion. ®

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