Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Chips: How China Is Still Paying the Price For Squandering Its Chance To Build a Home-grown Semiconductor Industry

Should China ever invade Taiwan the TSMC fabs would be quite a prize.
We've looked at this oddity a few times, some links below.
From the South China Morning Post, August 28:
  • This is the first in a series of in-depth articles examining China’s efforts to build a stronger, domestic semiconductor industry amid rising trade tensions with US
  • Here we look at how China came close to the US in the 1960s but lost its way, leaving it scrambling to catch up today
China is self-sufficient in nuclear power generation, it has put a man in space and it is leading in many areas of artificial intelligence.

But when it comes to semiconductor production, it remains woefully behind, spending more on imports of the chips that power the electronic gadgets, PCs and military equipment around us today than it does on oil.

Semiconductor design and production is a notoriously complex business, involving decades of expertise and extreme precision – get it slightly wrong and billions of dollars of investment can go up in smoke.

China has long been aware of the need to develop a strong semiconductor industry of its own but the recent trade war with the US, which threatens to cut off critical access to US components for national tech champions, has added extra urgency.

The trade blacklisting of Huawei Technologies by the US in May on national security grounds and an earlier ban on domestic rival ZTE for breaching an Iran sanctions settlement, has laid bare China’s reliance on the US when it comes to semiconductors, a vulnerability that has not been lost on China’s leaders.

“Technological innovation is the root of life for businesses,” China’s President Xi Jinping said in May on a visit to Jiangxi province, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. “Only if we own our own intellectual property and core technologies, then can we produce products with core competitiveness and [we] won’t be beaten in intensifying competition.”

What many people might not be aware of though is that China was close to the US in the 1960s when it came to early semiconductor technology – so close that it had a fighting chance of leading the industry. However, a combination of political upheaval and misguided industrial strategy has meant that after decades of effort, China still lags....MUCH MORE
Also at the SCMP, Aug. 28:
Are China’s investments in semiconductors all for naught? US expert says China is at a crossroads

July 3
China to Narrow Chip Gap With Taiwan Invasion
Did I say invade? I meant trade.
I must have been thinking of China's Defense Minister last month saying "China must be and will be reunited".
With the Taiwanese elections coming up it's probably as good a time as any for Beijing to make some sort of move. Probably not invasion though. China will want to test its military somewhere, our guess is Vietnam, before tackling Taiwan. So probably some sort of fifth column action, cyber, electrical grid etc. And the people to do it are already on the island, I mean if the Chinese could get one of their spies into Dianne Feinstein's office while she was Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee (2009 - 2015), the guy was her San Francisco office manager, not, as reported, the chauffeur, if they could do that there is no doubt they have assets in Teipei.
So where was I?
June 14
"China chip industry insiders voice caution on catch-up efforts"
May 1
Beijing’s big chip push goes into hyperdrive
March 28
China's AI Dream: The Plan and the Players
January 2018
"Can Chinese AI Chip Makers Compete with Nvidia?" (NVDA)
January 2018
"China wants to make the chips that will add AI to any gadget"
From MIT's Technology Review, Jan. 24: The AI boom offers Chinese chipmakers a chance to catch up after years of lagging behind....