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China Plans National, Unified CPU Architecture

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the bringing-resources-to-bear dept.

China 240

MrSeb writes "According to reports from various industry sources, the Chinese government has begun the process of picking a national computer chip instruction set architecture (ISA). This ISA would have to be used for any projects backed with government money — which, in a communist country such as China, is a fairly long list of public and private enterprises and institutions, including China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the world. The primary reason for this move is to lessen China's reliance on western intellectual property. There are at least five existing ISAs on the table for consideration — MIPS, Alpha, ARM, Power, and the homegrown UPU — but the Chinese leadership has also mooted the idea of defining an entirely new architecture. What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?"

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240 comments

bad idea (4, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 2 years ago | (#39821087)

This is probably among the worst ideas I've ever heard. They're basically saying "Standardize at the cost of having different architectures that are superior in their own ways", which is just absurd.

Re:bad idea (5, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | about 2 years ago | (#39821153)

I don't think it is a question of a good or bad idea. As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying. This is an issue of making surveillance easier and this should hardly come as a surprise because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance. Ultimately, by putting in place a mandate and enforcing it, it places additional costs and burdens on the businesses that must abide by these new regulations.

Re:bad idea (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821263)

a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance.

Even if that were true, it'd be irrelevant as China is Capitalist. Read about their economy on Wikipedia and stop looking like a fool.

Re:bad idea (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#39821299)

They still like to pretend they are communist to some extent. It's a national pride thing. Regardless, economic and political systems are not that closely linked: It's quite possible for a communist country to allow a great deal of political freedom, or a capitalist country to be as oppressive as any country can be.

Re:bad idea (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39822441)

Uh no... A Communist country would be built upon a Communist economy. Communism is an economic as well as political ideology. Abandon the economic side of the equation and you cease to have a Marxist state. China has not meaningfully been a Communist state since Deng Xiaoping began his radical reforms in the post-Mao era. It could best be described as a Capitalist Technocracy that has turned Chinese Communism into little more than empty flag waving.

Re:bad idea (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821355)

There are only two differences between communism and capitalism:
1. which small group gets to make the decisions
2. which small group (same as in #1) is controlling the surveillance.

In communism, it's government/political leaders. In capitalism, it is the upper corporate echelon.

Re:bad idea (3, Insightful)

wer32r (2556798) | about 2 years ago | (#39821813)

There are only two differences between communism and capitalism:
1. which small group gets to make the decisions
2. which small group (same as in #1) is controlling the surveillance.

In communism, it's government/political leaders. In capitalism, it is the upper corporate echelon.

In the extreme case, when this "upper corporate echelon" gets powerful enough to pass laws, and challenge the elected government, they effectively become a part of the country's political leadership, and thus we are back to communism.

Re:bad idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822277)

Slashdot is a place of fools these days. You're wasting your time. Post a link to paper the US Air Force wrote on the requirements and potential paths toward researching macro-scale traversable wormhole technology, and get ignored. The paper cited real science and it was enlightening to know the current (declassified) state of the art. Who on sladhdot gives a shit.

Can't even explain to this crowd the difference between an atheist and an agnostic.

Utter fucking fools on this site.

Re:bad idea (5, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#39821315)

a Communist country

I think you mean "a dictatorial autocratic oligarchic country." Or something like that, possibly proto-fascist considering how closely linked their corporations and government officials are. China isn't communist by any stretch of the imagination, and the spying and censorship is purely for the purpose of keeping The Party in power, whatever the cost to the people.

Re:bad idea (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 2 years ago | (#39821325)

Forcing everything to use one specific architecture, regardless as to how efficient it is at specific objectives related to the overall product (i.e. efficiency, multimedia processing, scientific calculations, etc..), isn't a bad thing?

Re:bad idea (1, Interesting)

s4ltyd0g (452701) | about 2 years ago | (#39821413)

This is an issue of making surveillance easier and this should hardly come as a surprise because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance.

Does that make the US a communist country then as well?

Re:bad idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821705)

He's saying Communist countries are fundamentally dependent on control through surveillance. The fact that Communist countries have historically been more prone to trample on privacy (see post war Germany, among others) is testament to the distinction between Communist and non-Communist. In the US, there is much dissent and controversy and disharmony, in China, it's self-censorship or jail.

While we're at it, a condemnation of one side of a dichotomy does not imply acclamation for the other, so there is no need to get your feelings hurt that the US is left out in certain times of criticism. No one does it when it's the other way around.

Re:bad idea (5, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | about 2 years ago | (#39821543)

A backdoor standard would get them an expert medal in footshooting. Eventually some other country would find the backdoor and then be able to spy on all their businesses.

This is one of the arguments that killed the Clipper Chip -- if Skipjack ever was broken, or the LEAF fields tampered with (which both happened), it would mean a foreign power would have wholesale access to US secrets.

Another downside is simple -- heterogeneous environments make life easier for the blackhats. If everything used the same architecture, it means that a low level bug that can get code executed in ring 0 (to use Intel's terms) would affect everything from the embedded device, all the way to the supercomputers. Having different architectures means that damage due to a bug similar to the F0 0F bug of yore would be limited and containable.

Open Source Backdoors? (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 years ago | (#39821989)

To build on MTTs's argument - but how would this work in practice? I am seeing a huge logical hole that I can’t figure out. Picking a ISA would seem to work against them. Does anybody have any ideas?

This is how I understand the proposal. The Government (and I can use upper case here because China is lead by a “Communist” party that leads state-owned enterprises – slightly more monolithic then elsewhere.) wants to save money (i.e. not pay western firms) by endorsing a ISA. O.K. I am not exactly a supporter of big government, so I don’t like the actor, but I do approve of AMD reverse engineering Intel’s x86 architecture.

Obviously this is to boost technical skills in chip design. Many people have suggested that this would make it easier to install back doors.

But the ISA would have to be published. WTO says it must. China can tilt the playing field to domestic companies – but only so far.

So, how would a backdoor that was openly documented work? I mean us slashdoters laugh all the time on “Security via obscurity”. How would a security hole via openness work?

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822035)

"heterogeneous environments make life easier for the blackhats"

The technological equivalent of the biological statement that lack of diversity makes species an easy prey and victim of disease. Anyone remember the Irish Potato famine or the Great Leap Forward? Government is mental illness. I guess this is GLF 2.0

Re:bad idea (4, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39821563)

As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying.

Given the sheer amount of hacking originating in China, I would think the last thing they'd want to do is apply a homogeneous solution to critical systems. It seems to me like that's just an invitation to hackers world-wide to exploit the shit out of it.

Maybe they think they're hack-proof or something.

Re:bad idea (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#39821843)

because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance

so, is the US now communist?

is our surveillance any less than theirs?

you may not be locked up by what you say, but you can be pretty sure that you are being spied upon just as much, maybe even more.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822003)

Well, the FEMA concentration camps that are being activated all across the country makes me just a *little* worried about that.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822177)

Well, the FEMA concentration camps that are being activated all across the country makes me just a *little* worried about that.

Yeah, me too. Where are those again?

Re:bad idea (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#39822299)

so, is the US now communist?

Logic lesson: if all your apples are red, that does not mean that all your red things are apples.

Just money not surveillance (4, Insightful)

drnb (2434720) | about 2 years ago | (#39822215)

... a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying ...

I doubt its over surveillance, such a backdoor will be found. The real motivation is most likely economic, simply not wanting to buy an expensive part from the west. It may even become a part they could export. Do consumers really care, or even know, what CPU is inside some electronic appliance/device?

Could also be... (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#39822335)

I don't think it is a question of a good or bad idea. As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying. This is an issue of making surveillance easier and this should hardly come as a surprise because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance. Ultimately, by putting in place a mandate and enforcing it, it places additional costs and burdens on the businesses that must abide by these new regulations.

Could also be that they are so paranoid that the West has backdoors into the existing technology that they want to design their own.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822347)

This massive surveillance would be different from our allegedly free capitalist countries in what way, exactly?

Re:bad idea (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 2 years ago | (#39821247)

This is the beauty of AMD, Intel and others going into details of why they are technically superior in a certain way. Then when cornered they say: yeah we're about the same but you can get a "faster" chip from us a little cheaper than the other guy. CPUs have become commodities in most people eyes: how much "make it go" do I get for my $200?

Re:bad idea (1)

adisakp (705706) | about 2 years ago | (#39821409)

This is the beauty of AMD, Intel and others going into details of why they are technically superior in a certain way. Then when cornered they say: yeah we're about the same but you can get a "faster" chip from us a little cheaper than the other guy. CPUs have become commodities in most people eyes: how much "make it go" do I get for my $200?

For what an average desktop neeps in gov't, you don't need to spend $200 on a CPU. Intel makes several CPU's that are capable of basic gaming for $80-$100 [tomshardware.com] .

Re:bad idea (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#39821525)

..and which was the real reason for the fall of the U.S.S.R. Centralization simply killed any efficiencies that could be carved out of everything from farming to weapons production. May the Chinese continue to revel in the goodness of state-approved CPU architecture as they try to compete with the rest of the world.

Re:bad idea (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#39822341)

What killed the USSR was that few people wanted to be productive when their efforts would merely enrich the unproductive. Central planning certainly helped, but if people had been willing to work hard for no benefit the USSR might still be around today.

Are you sure? (1)

goffster (1104287) | about 2 years ago | (#39821709)

Back when we had all sorts of different screws and nuts and bolts with no standardization,
there was always some reason why one particular brand was superior in one way.

But if they never standardized, we would likely now be paying $5/screw
instead of 5 cents/screw.

Re:Are you sure? (3, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39822169)

What are you talking about? There are literally dozens (maybe hundreds) of different types of screws [wikipedia.org] alone, engineered vastly different from one another to be best at their application. Wood screws are much different from sheet metal screws which are much different from concrete screws, phillips-head versus flat-head versus torx versus proprietary heads...

Everything from the length of the screw, the spacing of the threading, whether it's self-tapping or not...they're all engineered to be best at a particular application. Once you extend the set to include fasteners of any type, there are probably a million different types, be it mechanical, chemical, magnetic...

Try drilling a flat-head sheet metal screw into concrete. That's pretty much the same result you'll have trying to shove a one-size-fits-all CPU into every embedded computer system in the nation.

Re:bad idea (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#39821937)

We may be at the point where those different architectures aren't worth enough to care about either, at least for most consumer facing devices. Whether my speakers use 59 cents in one architecture cpu or 65 cents in another doesn't matter, my cable set top box might use 15 or 20 dollars in a CPU but they'll all do the job and it's not like I'm buying hundreds of these personally.

For places where ISA's can really matter, high performance servers for example, I don't see these as mattering much as we'd expect, MIPS alpha and power are all basically dead, ARM is competitive with x86 if the new intel android phone in india can be believed, and the UPU which is the presumptive choice will have to be competitive, or they'll have to allow exemptions or other special rules so that a block of ARM cpus can be controlled by a UPU approved CPU.

This sounds a lot less about spying and a lot more about protectionism and what the north koreans call Juche. Self reliance. The chinese are happy to sell us stuff, but don't ever want to have to buy anything that isn't dug directly out of the ground in return. The xbox 3 and PS4 will be x86, those will be banned, PC's, Mac or Windows, those will be banned or have to port to UPU. I suppose that makes ARM a viable choice since there will be a windows ARM option soon enough, but that might be a good argument against ARM too (from chinas perspective). Chosing UPU would effectively lock every major software and hardware vendor out of the chinese market.

Re:bad idea (1)

Xiaran (836924) | about 2 years ago | (#39821991)

Next they should choose a single standard programming language... I hear Ada is very popular.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822131)

Standardize at the cost of having different architectures that are superior in their own ways

There probably is some room for further commoditizing processors by standardizing the computer architecture.

In the consumer market for general purpose computing, we're pretty much down to two instruction sets; x86/AMD64 for performance or ARM for power sensitive applications.

These architectures continue to add advanced features for performance, like vector instructions and transactional memory, but the baseline set of instructions is pretty stable at this point. (Exception: the ARMv8 ISA includes a major redesign for 64-bit computing)

If they standardize on a simple and boring ISA that doesn't require big bucks in licencing, they should be able to decide on a few CPU designs and manufacture them ridiculously cheaply. They can also inspect the designs to look for backdoors (or include their own)
Handy for e.g. routers for your national network infrastructure.

Re:bad idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822145)

You've just described x86

Gay babies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821095)

Too many homosexual gay babies gaying up the place.

my question is (1)

meow27 (1526173) | about 2 years ago | (#39821099)

will people go out of their way to develop applications for this arch assuming they are already using x86_64/ARM/SPARC/etc ?

Re:my question is (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821143)

Are there 2 billion consumers in the marketplace who will purchase goods and services related to that arch?

Alternatively: Does a bear shit in the woods?

Re:my question is (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821219)

My take: There are 2 billion consumers that won't be able to use cracked serial numbers for my company's software anymore... and tie up our support lines with stupid questions in horribad Engrish... WIN/WIN!

Re:my question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821481)

The answer to #1 is probably "no." A vast majority of your IP theft originates from China, and you can bet that won't wane simply because they are moving to another architecture. Chinese companies will rip off anything and everything, then resell it at a drastically reduced cost, disappearing into the mist when the support requests start coming in.

This "clean slate" approach will actually be a boon for legitimate developers in that officially-sanctioned hardware will be unable to run previously-cracked programs... unless, of course, China simply adopts (read: steals) some existing architecture as its own IP and proceeds as such.

Re:my question is (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about 2 years ago | (#39821175)

My guess is that there will be a proprietary emulation layer developed so that existing software can be run. As horribly inefficient as this is, I would think that this would be the way to solve the problem of applications and libraries that are written for x86, X86_64, ARM, and the others.

Re:my question is (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 2 years ago | (#39821323)

It isn't just inefficiencies like a VM layer I don't think, some things baked into a cheap that can run in a few cycles could take 10's of instructions to run on a different architecture using the basic instructions. At some point inefficient becomes unusable. It is the same thing with government programs: if the government is rationing towelette paper and start doing a bad job people switch from the government to the black market. If something doesn't meet your needs (in the sense of meeting your minimum requirements) it won't meet your needs (in the sense of being used at all).

Re:my question is (1)

markatto (1893394) | about 2 years ago | (#39821227)

Honestly, architecture doesn't matter all that much as long as you have your OS kernel and compiler(s) ported. MIPS, Alpha, ARM, and Power all run pretty much any open source software you could wish for, although I can't speak to UPU as I've never heard of it.

Re:my question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821363)

And that all falls down because the vast majority are using pirated Windows XP. Despite what some loons think, Red Flag Linux usage is nearly nonexistent.

Re:my question is (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#39821477)

Unless the next windows were ported to this architecture that would change. I am betting even China does not intend this for their domestic consumer home computers.

Re:my question is (4, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | about 2 years ago | (#39821351)

China has approximately 400 million people in its middle class, and growing.

Yes, people will develop applications for it.

Re:my question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821823)

I lived my first 26 years in China, and have never met a single, clean middle class citizen. How strange...

Re:my question is (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 2 years ago | (#39821793)

Why does Russia support passenger jet construction when airbus and boeing are on sale?
China knows an internal CPU/GPU foundation is a useful skill to have and expand on - think of some trade war or blockage or generational backdoor..or US political issues...
This gives China options, lets them build internal quality towards exports under their own brands at their own price in their own currency.

Those (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821111)

Always open backdoors work both ways... once discovered.

Re:Those (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 2 years ago | (#39822069)

Whatever. This whole "hacking" threat is overblown. When has any major company or corporation been hit by a serious hack? That's why I fully support the government taking over the internet to stop piracy!

What if? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821139)

Then you will very quickly see the exact same monitoring schemes pop up in Western designs.

Is it actually their design? (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#39821141)

Will this be their own actual proprietary design, or are they just going to steal (like they usually do) some American company's design and sell it as their own? I predict there to be a scratched-off Intel logo at the bottom right corner of their schematics.

Re:Is it actually their design? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821241)

No Intel, Intel does not have anything worthwhile WRT CPU.

Government money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821193)

If certain people are to be believed, we are all living on government money even here in the USA. Some people and corporations receive explicit money from the government (welfare, subsidies, bail-outs) — that's easy, but they are still a minority (despite the government's best efforts to expand the "assistance" programs). But even those, who do not receive foodstamps, can still be considered being government sponsored, because the government is not taxing them as much as they could've been...

For example: "Oil companies got tax-breaks and therefore must do ...." Or: "The rich got their taxes lowered, and so they must do ...."

You mean (1, Interesting)

ihatewinXP (638000) | about 2 years ago | (#39821205)

"What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?"

Then they will have yet again copied the West's products and then rebranded the designs for their own use. As they have been doing for some time now..... China knows for a fact that the US is using backdoors in technology for warfare (see: Iran) and to overthrow governments (see: Arab Spring) - and is not going to long term put itself at risk by using these American technologies that invite 'revolutions of the people' (see: coups).

Re:You mean (2)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#39821273)

Yup, because they can't risk having the Big Bad US Government overthrow the People's Republic. The Chinese people would never (dare) resist or oppose their benevolent, self-sacrificing government.

Also, do you know of any specific backdoors, or are you just assuming that security holes are deliberate backdoors?

Re:You mean (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822283)

Each time I go to China, I'm amazed at the criticism and vitriol hurled at the government and communism. During conversations in public places. Makes me uncomfortable (kind of like visiting a friend's house and seeing a family fight). I've heard worse about the US government, but one set of jokes stand out. Seems that some Chinese are now joking that they'd welcome a US military invasion. From their tone, I can tell they are joking and just using hyperbole to show their frustration. Maybe they joke that way because they really don't dare oppose their government, but would be happy if someone else did. But I can't help but think WTF!

Re:You mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821293)

With the exception or regime change in Iran, can you tell me how "overthrowing governments" via the Arab Spring is something the US is shepherding along via backdoors in technology? These uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt etc are removing relatively friendly (to the US in the grand scheme of things) governments and putting harder line islamists in power.

Re:You mean (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821407)

Arab Spring: So Twitter is now a US government backdoor? Apparently teenage girls and annoying celebrities are now ninja NSA agents!

And Stuxnet, which was a virus installed via sneakernet specially designed to mess with Iran's centerfuges is now a backdoor that is installed on every computer in the west?
Somebody's tinfoil hat is on just a little bit too tight. Sorry, but the X-Files ended 10 years ago.

Re:You mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821761)

Arab Spring: So Twitter is now a US government backdoor? Apparently teenage girls and annoying celebrities are now ninja NSA agents!

That's just what THEY want you to think!!!!

Re:You mean (2)

Xibby (232218) | about 2 years ago | (#39821443)

Someone, somewhere, somehow will offer a sufficient bribe to gain access to those backdoors.

Sounds like a great idea China, go for it!

Re:You mean (1)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#39821949)

I don't know how you can say the Arab Spring is a machination of the US government when it has been more harmful to US influence in the region than it has been beneficial. Why would the US overthrow Mubarak when he was both capable and often agreeable to much of US ME policy? In fact, I'd say the US is opposed to the Arab Spring based on its continued aid to Yemen/Saudi Arabia/Bahrain. Tunisia and Egypt merely got too hot too fast, and the State Dept couldn't touch them without backlash.

And how can you use the word "coup" for a movement of popular dissent? How hateful of the US and lacking in compassion must you be to dismiss the legitimate concerns of those dissenters just because you believe the US may be simultaneously opposed to those governments? Does a US alignment with a popular rebellion immediately poison that rebellion? Do you think so little of those people?

Well than everyone can listen into the Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821207)

Because other country's spy agencies could crack the backdoor, and then see what all these government contract agencies and companies are doing.

IF? (1)

djdbass (1037730) | about 2 years ago | (#39821257)

What do you mean "if China ... makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?" I would expect that is their true motivation here. Any other reasons given are part of the cover.

Chinese BAD, western GOOD... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821261)

Or a NSA-CIA-MI5-KGB backdoor-free architecture...

Dragonsomething? (2)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 2 years ago | (#39821265)

Didn't they try this like a decade ago with knock-off 586 chips?

"always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies"

Our spooks would probably love that. It wouldn't stay Chinese-only for very long.

DIY or copying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821295)

Considering the widespread stealing from the chinese government on western high tech company I just wonder how much of this is "do-it-yourself" and how much is "copying other IP and customize it for your own". I mean, software has been hacked in a similar fashion, why not hardware design?

One Lock for a Million Gates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821307)

...thousands of hackers have boners right now

lol creating something on their own? (2)

nhat11 (1608159) | about 2 years ago | (#39821319)

Yeah and in the end it will just be a copy of a copy of something. In all seriousness, it would be interesting if they created something new but to mature that technology will takes years, possibily decades.... and by that time everything else would have already advance... China you're so backwards sometimes!

What, exactly, could they do in silicon? (5, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#39821371)

Seriously. This is architecture stuff. You can't just write a backdoor into a chip that easily. You can't write censorship in, because there would be no way to update the censorlist. The most you could do is provide a code injection backdoor (If you see byte sequence xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, jump to the following byte), but with no way to disable it they would just weaken their own defence when it inevitably leaked.

Re:What, exactly, could they do in silicon? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821559)

Just from the top of my head:
They could include device/code authentication on-chip --> no more anonymity + only run approved, signed software
If hardlinked to specific NIC --> govt owns your device, no more privacy.

Re:What, exactly, could they do in silicon? (1)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#39821643)

They could include device/code authentication on-chip --> no more anonymity + only run approved, signed software

Communists nothing, Microsoft and Apple both want this as well.

Re:What, exactly, could they do in silicon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822137)

Neither of them make CPUs, so...

Re:What, exactly, could they do in silicon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821677)

This sounds exactly like two of the criteria what the Canadian government is proposing in bill C-30. Maybe China is developing this for sale in the Canadian market, as well?

Re:What, exactly, could they do in silicon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822241)

ARM and x86 cores already have this. Every mobile phone and cable/dsl modem has it too.

Just like everyone uses "Ada", now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821403)

I'm not so sure I'd be all that concerned.

I recall back in the 80's how the DoD was mandating all programming be done in 'Ada'.

How'd that work out?

Re:Just like everyone uses "Ada", now (0)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#39821655)

It caused the first European launch of Ariane 5 [wikipedia.org] to fail. I guess that could be considered a success from an American point of view.

Re:Just like everyone uses "Ada", now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821979)

I hope you are kidding. Ariane 5 didn't fail because it was written in Ada. It failed because they reused Ariane 4 code and didn't check if that software was appropriate and correct for the Ariane 5. See http://www.di.unito.it/~damiani/ariane5rep.html for the full failure technical report.

More Paranoia Stoking & Misdirection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821417)

What if China makes its own ... microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?

Groan. More of the endless paranoia stoking and misdirection.

If that were to be so, they might have beaten the US or Britain or Israel or Iran or Mars to the punch.

People need to wake the hell up and stop swallowing the latest misdirection efforts.

The "Enter Name of Latest Enemy to Fear Monger Over" are not the sole enemies of "freedom".

They are just the hand the magicians want you to watch.

Trust no-one, especially those who stand to gain financially.

Monitoring (1)

the_pace (1319317) | about 2 years ago | (#39821495)

It is very curious to see the every foray by Chinese government become self-reliant on technology being portrayed as their desire for more surveillance. But if you look historically, China has actually been moving toward more openness while US and other Western countries are becoming more and more closed societies. Also after the passing of CISPA in the US House of Representatives recently, it can not even be argued that US government does not wish it had the kind of surveillance this article is suggesting.

Also please take look at IxMaps [ixmaps.ca] to see how the Internet traffic is being monitored by intelligence agencies.

ARM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821499)

last time someone tried to make a cpu compatible with ARM they were squashed with patents bought and killed, but of course they were a small company

This is non-sense... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821607)

Censorship built-in the silicone ? WTF ? On slashdot really ?

Do you have the slightest ideas of the limitation of such an implementation ?

The censorship at the internet/WWW level is plenty enough, it's much more efficient, and flexible and reactive an cost efficient if you take into consideration all the performance and flexibility such hardware would loose. Also it is almost impossibly hard and complex to put in place.

This is utter FUD. Also stop calling China a Communist country, because:

#A Communist means nothing and everything in american english (as Socialist does)
#B China is a national-Capitalist country with a dictatorial regime.

the straw on the other's eye... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821611)

The article last two paragraphs are only political propaganga and does not add any technical information.
who wrote that? an american political "komisariat"?
And also: really you are sure now your's processors are free of all state vigilance?

Cheap ISA/CPU = No Innovation? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821625)

I have a concern about this entirely unrelated to questions of censorship, spying, industrial espionage and the like. Somebody please enlighten me if I am wrong.

If China develops its own general-purpose ISA and manages to put any serious market share behind it, it could eventually make its way to non-Chinese markets. If this happens, it seems likely that it will significantly undercut Intel/AMD prices possibly at comparable performance levels initially. The pattern exists in virtually ever other sector wherein Chinese input to a market undercuts and eventually eliminates competition based on price alone and despite other virtues of the product. The competitors eventually wither because they cannot manufacture the product at a cost acceptable to the price-fixated consumer.

Now when I can no longer buy a decent shower caddy because the *only* ones that are sold outside extremely highly priced specialty shops are made with substandard parts and labor from China, that's too bad. I'm stuck buying a new one every year or so after the last one breaks. It's a whole different world with CPUs and ISAs. Say what you like about the level of competition in the United States: CPU progress marches onward each year, new foundries are built, technologies shrink, transistor counts go up, and work per clock cycle increases. If comparable early Chinese entries undercut their American competition and that competition dies, it seems very unlikely to me that price-conscientious Chinese firms will be as concerned about continuing the pace of innovation. Progress in the CPU sector could come to a jarring, extremely unfortunate, hard-to-reverse halt.

Thoughts?

Can you say "Ada"? (1)

pivot_enabled (188987) | about 2 years ago | (#39821675)

This is brilliant! China should absolutely pursue this line of thinking in all area. I am projecting a strong recovery in the US labor market....

Overkill? (1)

Wattos (2268108) | about 2 years ago | (#39821713)

This seems to be total overkill. If China wants to spy on its users, its a lot easier to do it differently.

Why not simply enforce that all new machines have UEFI and only accept to boot an OS which is signed by the Chinese government? In the kernel they can then introduce whatever spying technology they want.

This is pretty much equivalent to creating their own architecture, since that would also require a specially compiled OS for that architecture.

Or am I missing something?

Re:Overkill? (4, Insightful)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#39821893)

Politics (and spying) aside, this is probably not unlike their past effort to create a new Audio Video compression Standard. I'm sure the Chinese look at the Arm ISA situation and see wow, you really do have to get an Arm license if you want to make a smart phone. This seems similar to the BluRay MPEG/H.264 situation and their move with AVS. They've got a lot of smart folks in China and want to spur development. In the process, the want to see if they can give their local companies an economic advantage (reduced licensing fees for manufactured products for domestic consumption).

If this takes off in China (a big market), then instead of chinese companies paying foreign companies a licensing fee for products (net outflow of money), the foreign companies that want to make a product for consumption in the chinese market will probably have to pay the Chinese licensing fees for this. That way money for new development gets to stay in China benefiting their economy more than others. Why wouldn't they want to do this?

Of course if it makes it easier to spy on folks, so much the better (homogenous platforms make that easier), but I don't think that's the main motivation. As with most things in China today, the motivation is national economic self-interest.

All this has happened before and will happen again (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | about 2 years ago | (#39821759)

ISA [wikipedia.org] was created in 1981. China is just ensuring that everything from the past 30 years happens again...

People are dumb. (2)

toriver (11308) | about 2 years ago | (#39821777)

What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?

We will still buy those products because they are the cheapest.

Poor Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821797)

"makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring"

This is one of the silliest things I've ever read on /. It shows that the author has no idea of what an ISA is.

Wouldn't they need like 1000 times ,more space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821869)

becuse the alphabet or whatever they call it has like 60000 letters. how else to cram all those letters in a dye but make it bigger? what of numbers? do they have 1000 times more numbers too? and punchashun? who can fit a key board on his desk with 60000 letters? how fast can the fast sinaese type?

You can't put a backdoor into an ISA (2)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 2 years ago | (#39821885)

You could put one into an implementation of the ISA.

If you wanted to put a backdoor into an implementation, you could easily do so with x86-64. It has instructions specifically used for AES. Just wire those to record keys, substitute keys or not actually encrypt and you're off and running.

Of course, since any ISA and implementation is Turing-complete without the specialized crypto instructions, you could just use the non-specialized instructions to do your work and then it would be a lot harder for the chip to save off your keys or data.

The End of Chinese Economic Boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39821969)

So much for their move towards free markets and growing economy. Let's hope this doesn't catch on in the communist United States as well. Intel will probably be lobbying congress to make their competitor's cpus illegal

Recommended reading: The Road to Serfdom

fearmongering (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 2 years ago | (#39822009)

Interesting how most comments wank on about fears of backdoors.

How stupid do you think the chinese are? A hardware backdoor in every device means that if you lose control of it even once, your entire infrastructure belongs to whoever you lost it to. I don't think anyone would take that risk for a bit of spying, not if you already have 100 better ways of spying.

What is so unlikely about the assumption that it really is in order to become independent of the west? That's a biggy right there. There's an elephant in the room, you know? The chinese are fast becoming one of the most important players on the world stage and they can't have something as important as chip design rest with a country (USA) that might turn hostile at the next unpredictable election.

Silicon level monitoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822081)

"What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?"

As opposed to the USA same? At this point in time I'm really not sure if I can trust USA any more than China. As a government I probably would be even more skeptical.
It just might be that they want an own foundation to build on - that everything would be based on the same architecture is probably because governments in general are not known for their technical knowledge.

The /. article seems somewhat biased.

They probably just want... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822113)

They probably just want to have an R2 cache instead of an L2 cache.

Red Star Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39822285)

China has already demonstrated their standards for software success with this ever popular distribution.
The platform must conform!

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