China’s Efforts to Lead in High Performance Computing

China has been conducting research and development (R&D) in high performance computing (HPC) since the early 1980s, but was a laggard until the beginning of the 2000s.

Since then, China’s HPC community has made a concerted effort not only to catch up with the United States, Japan, and other leading countries, but also to become a technological front-runner.

The dual-use nature of HPC technology makes understanding China’s plans, activities, and prospects a priority in the study of global technological leadership and national security, with far-reaching implications for the United States as it seeks to remain a technological leader. 

Using open-source materials and interviews with Chinese and US experts, researchers will build a relational network to encapsulate how Chinese institutions, individuals, and activities are linked. This will help to provide patterns of association, clusters of activity, or unusual information vacuums that might suggest secret research taking place.

The project was conducted in collaboration with the Computational Division of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Research Themes

The political economy of China’s supercomputer program

What are the institutions involved, who are the key scientific and management leaders, what resources are being allocated, and what is the make-up of the research and development infrastructure, especially key facilities?

How China’s capabilities in HPC have been achieved

What is the development history of the program; how much has been indigenously developed and how much has relied on international assistance? How significant a role has the Chinese military played in HPC development?

Projected trends in Chinese HPC R&D over the next one to two decades

What is the level of political support for the Chinese HPC program and does it have high priority in the country’s major science and technology plans? When will the Chinese HPC industry be able to develop exaflop-scale supercomputers?

Key applications of China’s HPC capabilities

Will they be primarily for civilian use or will there be extensive military applications, such as for weapons design and nuclear simulation?

Technical challenges

One of the key weaknesses of the Chinese program has been its dependence on foreign processing chips. What are other key technical weaknesses in the program and how is China working to overcome these? What are its key strengths? What is the state of China’s R&D in HPC cooling technology and in power efficiency?


Latest Developments in the Chinese and US High Performance Computing Sectors
May 11, 2015
La Jolla, California

Agenda [pdf]

Assessing China's Efforts in High Performance Computing and What It Means for the United States
February 10, 2015
UC Washington Center

Comparing High Performance Computing in the United States and China
April 29–30, 2014
La Jolla, California
Agenda [pdf]
Participants [pdf]
The State of High Performance Computing in China
January 8, 2014
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory