Xi Taps Top Deputy to Lead China's Chip Battle Against U.S
Comment of the Day

June 17 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Xi Taps Top Deputy to Lead China's Chip Battle Against U.S

This article for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The task of coordinating that sprawling program now falls to Liu, who has to keep track of the relevant resources and drive the national strategy to help China achieve chip independence.

“For our country, technology and innovation is not just a matter of growth,” Liu told a three-story auditorium packed with China’s top scientists in a separate meeting in May. “It’s also a matter of survival.”

Xi is counting on his lieutenant to help China fend off growing threats from the U.S., which is seeking to take back chip industry supremacy. Under the Trump administration, sanctions were slapped on Chinese giants from Huawei to SMIC, cutting off their access to American technology and equipment crucial to designing and making advanced logic chips. President Joe Biden has also laid out a $52 billion plan to bolster domestic chip manufacturing, while calling on allies to join export controls aimed at curbing Beijing’s drive toward technology self-sufficiency.

Rival powerhouse nations like South Korea and leading corporations such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have also responded with their own spending plans, fueling the race to take the lead in the sector.

With traditional chipmaking facing a series of challenges from technology development to heavy capital investment, third-generation chips -- which use compounds such as gallium nitride and silicon carbide to significantly improve the performance of semiconductors that power a wide range of industries and products -- may offer China its best chance to overcome rivals, senior academic Mao Junfa told an industry event in Nanjing earlier this month.

“China couldn’t buy chips, even with cash in hand,” he said, referring to Washington’s sanctions on Chinese tech companies including Huawei. “The compound chip technologies could help China surpass rivals in the post-Moore’s Law era.”

Eoin Treacy's view

A decade ago, China needed a domestic demand led recovery so social media, ecommerce and mass consumerism were promoted. That allowed Alibaba, Tencent etc to become some of the largest companies in the world. Their economic function has been realised and now efforts are underway to curtail their growth, lest they become a challenge to the political status quo. The opening of an antitrust investigation of Didi ahead of its IPO is one more example of how the growth of the most successful companies is being curtailed. 

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