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Reported new chip curbs decried

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-02 09:08
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The booth of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp during an industry expo in Shanghai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

If the US government's reported move to tighten restrictions on China's access to chipmaking equipment pans out, it will further disrupt the global semiconductor supply chains and harm the interests of US companies such as Lam Research Corp, experts said.

Their comments came after Bloomberg reported that the US Commerce Department is broadening restrictions on semiconductor manufacturing equipment shipments to plants in China that make chips below 14 nanometers.

In chip manufacturing, production identified by lower nm is considered more advanced. That means raising the restriction level to 14 nm from 10 nm would cover a broader range of semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

Bloomberg quoted Tim Archer, CEO of Lam Research, as saying that Washington has, in fact, expanded the barrier to equipment that can make anything more advanced than 14 nm.

Washington had banned the sale of most gear that can help fabricate chips of 10 nm or more advanced to Chinese mainland company Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp without a license.

Now, the restrictions are likely to extend beyond SMIC and include other fabrication plants run by contract chipmakers operating in China, Bloomberg reported.

Zhong Xinlong, a senior consultant at the Beijing-based China Center for Information Industry Development Consultancy, said the broadened restriction is just another attempt by Washington to contain the rapid development of China's semiconductor industry. It is done out of pure fear of China.

Zhong said the Chinese mainland is the world's largest market for semiconductor equipment, and it has big appeal to global semiconductor companies.

The sales of semiconductor equipment in the Chinese mainland reached $29.62 billion last year, up 58 percent year-on-year, accounting for almost 29 percent of the global semiconductor equipment market, according to data from SEMI, the global industry association that represents the entire electronics manufacturing and the design supply chain.

Among the top 15 semiconductor equipment manufacturers in the world in 2021, US company Applied Materials derived 33.8 percent of its revenue from the Chinese mainland, the largest share. The corresponding number for Lam Research was 33 percent, also its largest share, according to data compiled by the Chinese semiconductor industry website Icsmart.cn.

Bai Ming, deputy director of international market research at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said the US government is mixing politics with normal business collaboration and harming the rights and interests of Chinese companies as well as US companies.

Despite the US restrictions, Chinese mainland chipmakers are making progress. For the first time, three Chinese mainland chipmakers accounted for more than 10 percent of the global foundry revenue in the first quarter of this year, according to data from Trend-Force, a market research and intelligence provider. Foundry is industry parlance for contract chipmaking.

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