(Bloomberg) — A prominent figure in the semiconductor industry stated that the progress of Chinese companies, including Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co., in chip technology cannot be halted by the United States.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
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Bern J., formerly a vice president at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, mentioned that SMIC and Huawei, who surprised Washington by unveiling locally-produced phone processors, have the ability to utilize their existing older equipment to develop even more advanced silicon. Lin also added that SMIC should be capable of moving forward to the next generation at 5 nanometers using the machines of ASML Holding NV, which are already in operation. Lin, who revolutionized chipmaking at TSMC with his lithography technology, made these statements.
Huawei caused a sensation in the chip industry when they revealed a 7nm processor manufactured by SMIC in the Mate 60 Pro. This led to celebration in China and accusations in the US that their efforts to suppress the country’s technological progress had failed. Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. has also begun producing some of the most advanced memory chips in the industry. In October, the Biden administration tightened existing sanctions to eliminate any loopholes that would enable the country’s access to advanced US equipment, marking a new phase in the battle to control technologies that are crucial to the economic and political balance of power. It is a symbol of that.
Read more: Huawei’s unexpected revival signifies a new phase in the Cold War of tech
Despite this, Lin asserts that China’s technological progress cannot be stopped. Lin, who is highly regarded in the industry for his introduction of immersion lithography, the technology on which ASML’s key products rely, made this claim.
SMIC utilized ASML’s immersion lithography machines to manufacture 7nm chips for Huawei. In addition to striving to achieve the 5nm milestone, Lin believes that China is likely to experiment with new materials or advanced chip packaging in order to develop more powerful semiconductors. As a result of this news, SMIC shares rose 5.8% in Hong Kong, marking their largest gain in nearly two weeks.
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“The US cannot completely prohibit China from improving its chip technology,” Lin stated in an interview this week at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, where he serves as the dean of the College of Semiconductor Research. Arm Holdings Plc CEO Rene Haas expressed similar sentiments earlier this month.
Lin emphasized, “Rather than attempting to limit China’s progress, which is futile since China has made the development of its chip industry a central part of its overall strategy, the US should focus on maintaining its leadership in chip design. Furthermore, the US’s approach is detrimental to the global economy.”
In fact, according to Lin, the US may have inadvertently given SMIC a golden opportunity.
In 2020, Washington initiated legal action against Apple Inc. and effectively barred TSMC, the world’s most advanced silicon provider, from conducting business with Huawei. It was at this point that SMIC stepped in to secure large-scale orders, which contributed to the improvement of their manufacturing technology, according to Lin. SMIC and YMTC representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
A debate has now emerged in the US and elsewhere regarding whether Washington and its allies should intensify their containment campaign against China. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated that Washington does not have evidence to suggest that China can manufacture advanced chips “on a large scale,” while Alan Estevez, the undersecretary of commerce for industry and security, expressed concerns that Asian nations could potentially use 7nm or better technology in military applications.
Industry analysts, including Jeff Pu of Haitong International Securities, estimated that Huawei could produce 70 million smartphones using their own Kirin chips by 2024, compared to approximately 220 million iPhones shipped annually by Apple Inc. This is not an insignificant figure.
Another area of concern for Washington is China’s advancements in memory chips, which are a more standardized form of silicon compared to processors but are still significant in various applications such as smartphones, AI training servers, and military drones.
TechInsights Inc., a Canadian research firm, discovered an advanced chip manufactured by Yangtze Memory in a solid-state drive released around July. This discovery occurred several months after US sanctions were announced last year, which resulted in foreign device suppliers severing ties with the Chinese semiconductor company. In a routine device teardown, TechInsights, in collaboration with Bloomberg News, identified the 232-layer quad-level cell 3D NAND as one of the most advanced chips ever seen. TechInsights stated in a blog post on Tuesday, “Despite being hindered by the sanctions, YMTC has quietly been developing advanced technology. There is mounting evidence that China’s efforts to overcome trade restrictions and establish its own domestic semiconductor supply chain have been more successful than anticipated.”
–With assistance from Gao Yuan, Ian King, and Jane Lanhi Lee.
(Updated with SMIC stock action from the fifth paragraph)
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