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US curbs inspire new thinking, chip vision

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-27 09:22
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Semiconductor chips are seen on a circuit board of a computer in this illustration picture taken Feb 25, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

The Chinese chip design sector's sales revenue this year is expected to reach 534.57 billion yuan ($78.74 billion), up 16.5 percent year-on-year, showcasing sectoral resilience amid US export restrictions, experts said after reviewing data from the China Semiconductor Industry Association on Monday.

Far from crimping growth, US restrictions over chip exports to China are inspiring local chip designers to pursue self-reliance, which in turn is facilitating wider use of their processors, experts said.

Wei Shaojun, president of the integrated circuit design branch of the CSIA, said though the sectoral growth rate this year is 3.6 percentage points lower than that of last year, China's chip design sector is likely to account for a bigger proportion of the global semiconductor sales.

Wei delivered the CSIA report at an industry conference in Xiamen, Fujian province, on Monday. The report showed there are 3,243 chip design companies in China, 433 more than last year.

Amid Washington's restrictions over advanced US chip exports to China, "not only Chinese companies but foreign companies operating in China attach greater importance to the security of supply chains, which has, in fact, fueled a wider use of domestically designed chips", Wei said.

If there are more similar restrictions in the future, Chinese chip design firms' market presence will likely expand even more, Wei said.

The US crackdown on China's chip industry, he said, is disrupting the global semiconductor supply chains. This created a sense of crisis among downstream users of chips, making them look for secure supply chains less reliant on US chip technologies and products, thus opening up more opportunities for Chinese chip designers.

"Many (domestic) chip design enterprises said that some markets they had found very hard to enter in the past, have been granted access this year," Wei said.

This year's growth is chiefly driven by China's vast market demand, and a global supply crunch in chips has also improved chip prices, he said.

Meanwhile, amid favorable government policies, as of Monday, more than 25 chip design companies have launched their IPOs this year, with their combined market value on Dec 1 hitting 472.1 billion yuan.

Since the listing of the first Chinese chip design company in 1996, some 73 chip design companies have listed on China's various stock exchanges, with their combined market value hitting 1.75 trillion yuan.

Wei, however, admitted that domestic chip design majors have been facing more challenges this year, with their growth far lagging the industry average. He attributed this to multiple factors, including insufficient investment in research and development.

Zhong Xinlong, a senior consultant at the China Center for Information Industry Development Consultancy, said the US government restrictions are persuading more local customers to prefer domestic chips to US products, amid fear of more bans that could disrupt the industrial chain.

"The (US export) bans are also making Chinese chip companies more determined to achieve breakthroughs in crucial technologies," Zhong said.

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