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Tech war: US, Taiwan, Japan gallop ahead in advanced semiconductors while China remains stuck at mature-node chips

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These forays by US allies into production of leading edge chips – used in high end smartphones and tablets – marks a sharp contrast to mainland Chinese wafer foundries that are being forced to stick with mature node chips due to US trade sanctions.

Analysts said the gap between China and global chip leaders is expected to widen further under the updated US restrictions that target advanced nodes, as foreign rivals will keep investing to push technology boundaries.

China’s top foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), is only able to mass produce 14-nm chips – suitable for cars and home appliances – as it grapples with the challenges posed by the latest US sanctions.

However, China’s huge domestic market, especially lower-end segments served by legacy technology nodes, could provide a cushion for Chinese chip makers.

“China’s response to the latest US sanctions in the chipmaking sector could be a retooling focus on mature nodes or third-generation semiconductors,” said Arisa Liu, a senior semiconductor research fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

Liu said that the Japanese chipmaking initiative, which is likely to source technology from US tech giant IBM, was “more symbolic” because of the high threshold to enter the advanced wafer foundry business, as well as the difficulties in aligning views from several companies.

China condemns new US law aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing

01:57

China condemns new US law aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing

The updated semiconductor export controls announced by the US Department of Commerce on October 7 sent a jolt through China’s chip industry, crushing its ambitions to achieve more self-sufficiency in a crucial sector that is at the heart of US-China tech rivalry.

TSMC has seen steadily increasing demand for its advanced capacity, defined as process nodes at 7-nm and below – which have become the workhorse for central processing units used in high-end smartphones and tablets.

TSMC’s combined revenue from 5-nm and 7-nm nodes accounted for 52 per cent of its total revenue in the third quarter.

The news is published by EMEA Tribune & SCMP210520-twitter-verified-cs-70cdee.jpg (1500×750)

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