A few weeks after Barack Obamaâ€™s election, the Chinese began flooding a group of communications links known to be monitored by the N.S.A. with a barrage of intercepts, two Bush Administration national-security officials and the former senior intelligence official told me. The intercepts included details of planned American naval movements. The Chinese were apparently showing the U.S. their hand.
â€œThe N.S.A. would ask, â€˜Can the Chinese be that good?â€™ â€ the former official told me. â€œMy response was that they only invented gunpowder in the tenth century and built the bomb in 1965. Iâ€™d say, â€˜Can you read Chinese?â€™ We donâ€™t even know the Chinese pictograph for â€˜Happy hour.â€™ â€
And today’s New York Times, on a Chinese research center building a supercomputer that outclocks the current one by 40 percent.
Modern supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organization with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine.
The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands upon thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce behind the system â€” and the technological achievement â€” is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates, Mr. Dongarra said.
â€œThat technology was built by them,â€ Mr. Dongarra said. â€œThey are taking supercomputing very seriously and making a deep commitment.â€
The Chinese interconnect can handle data at about twice the speed of a common interconnect called InfiniBand used in many supercomputers.