The National Supercomputing Center (NSC) in Guangzhou, China, recently revealed its latest achievement, the Tianhe Xingyi, a homegrown supercomputer. This unveiling underscores China’s ongoing advancements in high-performance computing, a crucial element for addressing complex and technical challenges across various domains. Historically, the United States has been at the forefront of supercomputing, leading both in terms of speed and the sheer number of supercomputers, as evidenced by the prestigious TOP500 listings.
Supercomputers play a vital role in scientific research, enabling simulations for climate change studies, material exploration, space research, disease research, and the development of cutting-edge artificial intelligence models. The Tianhe Xingyi’s emergence represents a strategic move by China to bolster its capabilities in this critical technological field.
China’s journey into supercomputing began in the 1980s, gaining global recognition with the Tianhe-1 in the early 2000s. The Tianhe-2, developed under the guidance of the NSC, held the top spot in the TOP500 list until the imposition of US sanctions disrupted its access to essential Intel processes.
Despite this setback, it has consistently ranked among the top 10 supercomputers globally. In 2019, China surpassed the US by featuring 228 supercomputers in the TOP500 list, only to subsequently cede its dominance.
The recent introduction of the Tianhe Xingyi exemplifies China’s strategic shift toward self-sufficiency in supercomputing technology. While specific technical details are yet to be disclosed, NSC Director Lu Yutong emphasized the new supercomputer’s superiority in areas such as CPU computing power, networking efficiency, storage capacity, and application performance compared to its predecessor, the Tianhe-2. This positions the Tianhe Xingyi among the top 10 globally, showcasing technology developed independently of US influence.
China’s commitment to technological independence is further highlighted by its emphasis on cultivating domestic processors like Loongson and interconnects necessary for constructing its supercomputers. This strategic move was prompted by US export restrictions and uncertainties in the global supply chain, following the blacklisting of the Tianhe-2 in 2016.
China’s focus on indigenous technology not only reflects resilience in the face of challenges but also positions the country favorably to potentially surpass the US in the development of exascale supercomputers capable of performing a billion billion calculations per second.
The trajectory suggests that China’s substantial investment in homegrown technology has positioned it well to challenge and potentially surpass the US in the ongoing global supercomputing race.