China bans the sale of Loongson processors to Russia for potential military applications

The percentage of defective microchips supplied to Russia by Chinese manufacturers has risen from 2 to 40 per cent, a 20-fold increase. The refusal of Russian enterprises to collaborate with legitimate distributors forces them to utilise the services of resellers who lack experience in chip-checking.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The Loongson processors, which are based on China’s very own LoongArch architecture, are not allowed to be exported to Russia by the Chinese government. According to Kommersant, citing its own sources, the rationale for this was that China’s military-industrial complex recognised the technology in question as being of vital importance. This recognition was related to the fact that the technology was used in China’s military-industrial complex.

An interlocutor from the Russian Ministry of Digital Development said that some Russian electronic firms have already conducted tests on Chinese processors, but at this point, they cannot purchase a batch of them to do further evaluations. No dependencies or problems are associated with this approach; nevertheless, Loongson was investigated as a potential alternative if parallel imports of Intel products are blocked.

This information was validated by a source within the electronics business, who indicated that China employs the best chips for military items and does not wish to share the development with any other nations.

Domestic chips in China

Although there are six major domestic CPU manufacturers in China, Loongson and Zhaoxin are the most significant examples of the industry.  Loongson possesses the maximum degree of autonomy. Last year, it shifted its focus to the in-house-built Loongson architecture. It simultaneously introduced the in-house produced LoongArch instruction set and the Loongson 3A/3C5000 series of processors. As a result of its X86 architecture and compatibility with Windows, Zhaoxin has garnered a significant amount of interest in recent years.

The most recent series of processors produced by Loongson is the 3A/3C5000 series, and they use a 12 nm technology. The most recent processor that Zhaoxin has released should be the U6780A processor, which operates on a 16nm technology.

From the perspective of usage scenarios, there is still a large difference between the two and Intel, and there should be a 5-year gap. While the Chinese chips may be able to handle daily office work, they may not be sufficient for entertainment, especially games.

Generally speaking, no matter whether it is Zhaoxin or Zhaoxin, the gap with Intel is still far away, and it can only be partially fulfilled in a small range and specific cases.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences established Loongson Corporation in 2002, intending to develop a competitor to the American computer chip manufacturers Intel and AMD. The firm launched its own Loongson Instruction Set Architecture (LoongArch) in the spring of 2021. This architecture is compatible with programmes that were created for the X86 and ARM architectures developed by Intel and AMD, respectively.

Russia approves parallel imports

After the commencement of hostilities in Ukraine, the leading silicon chip manufacturers, including Intel and AMD, which were used in Russian computers, storage systems, and servers, among other things, ceased shipments to Russia. After that, parallel imports were made legal in Russia, and the criminal and administrative penalties for importing goods without the consent of the owner of the copyright were removed. Parallel imports are now perfectly legal in Russia. On the list of commodities that are permitted to be imported through parallel import channels are, in particular, products manufactured by Intel.

The Chinese semiconductor ban does not affect Russia yet

In response to an inquiry regarding whether or not there is an official ban on Chinese supplies, Vitaly Mankevich, the chairman of the Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RASPP), indicated that there is no formal embargo on supplies, and if one were to be imposed, the organisation has other options for purchasing these items from smaller enterprises in third countries. 

Chinese silicon chips do not have the required quality

According to a second source consulted by the publication, Chinese processors outperform Russian solutions in terms of technical characteristics but do not match Western solutions; thus, it is easier and safer to purchase Intel products worldwide.

Since the deployment of Russian soldiers on the territory of Ukraine, the percentage of defective microchips and components supplied to Russia by Chinese manufacturers climbed from 2 to 40 per cent, a 20-fold increase. The refusal of Russian enterprises to collaborate with legitimate distributors forces them to utilise the services of resellers who lack experience in chip-checking.

However, another electronic device manufacturer said that his company conducted tests on the server using the Loongson processor and concluded that it is a dependable, productive, and potentially serious competitor to Intel.

Western chips in Russian weapons systems

Although there is no evidence of Chinese chips in Russian military weapons, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has detected 80 export-controlled electronic components in 27 captured or recovered Russian military systems in Ukraine.

Over two-thirds of the components are manufactured in the United States. Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands account for most of the other suppliers. Ten of the fourteen Dutch chips were produced by NXP. Pressure sensors in drone flight controllers, RF transistors in radio sets and navigation devices, and an export-controlled microcontroller were most frequent. Nexperia manufactures two more components. The origin of the remaining two chips is not known.


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