Experts: Nation should leverage its chip market

By Ma Si (Chinadaily.com.cn) 08:07, June 27, 2023

China should leverage its super large chip market to promote re-globalization of the semiconductor industry chain, which risks greater fragmentation amid United States-led export control measures, experts said.

Despite Washington's shift in rhetoric from "decoupling" to "de-risking" in key supply chains, it is crystal clear that the US has coerced other countries that are big chip producers to hobble China's ability to make advanced semiconductors, they said.

The comments came after Bloomberg quoted anonymous sources as saying that the Dutch government is planning to publish new export controls that will restrict more of ASML Holding NV's chipmaking machines from being sent to China. The announcement is expected as soon as this week.

The measures, which the Dutch government previously pledged to publish before the summer, won't mention China or the ASML but are designed to restrict the shipments of three models of the company's machines to the Asian country, Bloomberg reported.

Dong Yifan, an assistant research fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the Beijing-based China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said this is the latest result of US coercion on countries such as the Netherlands. Such moves have disrupted the semiconductor industry's globalization, Dong added.

Wei Shaojun, a professor at the School of Integrated Circuits at Tsinghua University, said: "The more others suppress us, the more we need to be self-reliant. But self-reliance does not mean self-isolation. It is about finding ways to break the containment."

China needs to promote the re-globalization of the semiconductor industry by achieving self-reliance in crucial technologies as well as by teaming up with countries and enterprises that are willing to cooperate, said Wei, who is also president of the integrated circuit design branch of the China Semiconductor Industry Association.

Self-reliance in crucial technologies will help China's chip industry grow stronger and enable the country to play a bigger role globally, Wei added.

As the largest chip market, China consumed about 60 percent of all semiconductors in the world in 2022, which were then assembled into technological products to be re-exported or sold in the domestic market for final consumption, according to US market research company Gartner Inc.

Last year, the market size of the global chip industry stood at about $600 billion, according to Gartner.

"Over the past 20 years, China was just a participant in chip globalization. Now, in the process of re-globalization, China's role needs to change fundamentally to make a real difference," Wei said.

The importance of China's chip market is highly valued by the Semiconductor Industry Association, a Washington-based group that represents the US semiconductor industry, despite noises about technological decoupling.

"Access to this massive market (China) is essential to the success of any globally competitive chip firm today and in the future," the association said in a recent report.

In a recent interview with Financial Times, Jensen Huang, CEO of US artificial intelligence chip heavyweight Nvidia, also warned about the implications of further trade restrictions on China. "If we are deprived of the Chinese market, we don't have a contingency for that. There is no other China, there is only one China," Huang said.

Experts reiterated that China needs to beef up the strength of its domestic chip industry to shoulder a bigger role in safeguarding global supply chains.

Pan Helin, co-director of the Research Center for Digital Economics and Financial Innovation at Zhejiang University's International Business School, said that efforts are needed to actively explore emerging opportunities such as chips for new energy vehicles and AI industries.

Roger Sheng, vice-president of research at Gartner, said though big gaps with advanced foreign counterparts exist, China's chip industry has made steady progress and the restrictions imposed by the US government have, in fact, accelerated the progress of Chinese enterprises.

Data from the China Semiconductor Industry Association shows that the sales revenue of China's homegrown chip industry jumped to 516 billion yuan ($71 billion) in 2022 from 8.15 billion yuan in 2004, with an average annual compound growth rate of 25.9 percent. In comparison, the global average annual compound growth rate during the same period was 6.39 percent.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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