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As NVIDIA prepares for RTX 5090 launch there’s bad news from China

Could US-China tensions spoil NVIDIA's launch party?
Last Updated on May 14, 2024
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 5090 graphics card lying horizontally with visible branding and intricate cooling vents on its surface.
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It’s fair to say that anticipation over the release of NVIDIA’s next-gen 50 series GPU has reached fever pitch. After leaked specs of the 50 series’ flagship RTX 5090 went viral, rumors surrounding a potential release date have been swirling, although NVIDIA themselves have remained tight-lipped over this.

All this press is good news for the tech brand, proving that there is plenty of appetite and excitement over their latest offering, but behind the scenes, their undoubted optimism may be tinged with a hint of trepidation, not over the 50 series but because recent maneuvers by the Chinese government could have the potential to significantly impact their footprint in the country.

What does NVIDIA have to worry about?

According to The Information, the Chinese government has announced a new directive aimed at limiting the country’s reliance on foreign-made AI chips. Effectively new regulation would encourage Chinese tech firms including TikTok parent ByteDance, Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu to prioritize the purchase of domestically produced AI chips over foreign tech.

For NVIDIA this could be a big blow, as the Chinese AI tech sector is a huge market, but the recent tensions between the US and China are producing ripples across the tech world. Apple has announced it is diversifying its own supply chains away from China, instead focusing production capabilities towards India and Vietnam as stated in Bloomberg after Apple CEO Tim Cook’s visit to Hanoi in April.

Asus ROG Strix Nvidia RTX 4090 graphics card alongside its packaging, taken by PCGuide
Asus ROG Strix Nvidia RTX 4090 graphics card alongside its packaging, taken by PCGuide

What next for NVIDIA in China?

NVIDIA has already been navigating US-imposed sanctions on China, by supplying Chinese firms with bespoke AI chips that comply with US restrictions on exports, but according to Reuters Chinese firms have become increasingly resistant to purchasing the downgraded tech such as the H20 chip, and are exploring domestically produced alternatives.

The Chinese government’s new directive for its firms to concentrate on producing its own in-house chips could accelerate this trend, although it’s not clear whether penalties will be introduced for Chinese firms continuing to buy foreign imports or not.

For now, NVIDIA, along with the rest of us, will be looking forward to the release of the 50 series, but only time will tell if the choppy geopolitical waters around China could spoil the party. They’ve previously had to resort to China-exclusive models such as the 4090D in the past due to US restrictions, so it will be interesting to see how this all pans out.