In a resounding display of progress, China’s leading chip equipment manufacturers have witnessed a substantial surge in revenue during the first half of this year. This surge is unveiled in a recent report from Shanghai-based CINNO Research, underlining China’s unwavering commitment to achieving self-reliance in its semiconductor industry. This article delves into the details of this revenue upswing, the complexities of the chip supply chain, and the strategic maneuvers undertaken by Beijing to bolster its domestic industry.
The Remarkable Revenue Surge
Top Chinese Equipment Manufacturers Reap the Benefits
During the initial six months of the year, the top ten domestic equipment manufacturers in China achieved an impressive feat. Their combined revenue soared to approximately 16.2 billion Chinese yuan ($2.2 billion), marking a remarkable 39% increase compared to the previous year. This remarkable growth underscores the significance of China’s semiconductor industry on the global stage.
Semiconductors in the Crosshairs of a Global Tech Battle
The Broader Context of Technological Tensions
Semiconductors, the linchpin of modern technology, have become a focal point in the ongoing technological rivalry between the United States and China. As part of its strategy, Washington has employed export restrictions to curtail Beijing’s access to crucial semiconductor equipment and cutting-edge technologies.
The Intricacies of the Chip Supply Chain
A Complex Ecosystem
The chip supply chain is an intricate ecosystem, comprising various entities, from suppliers of semiconductor design tools to manufacturers of the machinery essential for chip production. China’s domestic semiconductor industry had long been reliant on foreign suppliers for these critical tools, which had placed it in the shadow of global leaders like the United States, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Beijing’s Drive for Self-Reliance
A Response to External Pressures
Since 2019, U.S. sanctions targeting Chinese technology giants like Huawei and SMIC (China’s largest chipmaker) have compelled Beijing to reinvigorate its domestic semiconductor industry. The objective: to achieve greater self-reliance and reduce dependence on foreign technology. This drive for autonomy has been a driving force behind the impressive revenue growth of China’s domestic chip equipment manufacturers.
Leaders of the Pack
Top Chinese Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturers
According to CINNO Research, Naura Technology Group Co. emerges as the leading Chinese semiconductor equipment manufacturer by revenue. The company specializes in producing tools integral to the chip manufacturing process. Notably, Naura recorded operating revenue exceeding 7 billion yuan in the first half of the year, showcasing a robust 68% year-on-year growth rate, surpassing its peers.
The second-largest player on the Chinese domestic front is Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc. China (AMEC). AMEC manufactures machinery essential for semiconductor production, and its revenue surged by an impressive 28% year-on-year to reach 2.53 billion yuan in the first half of the year, according to CINNO’s findings.
ACM Research, specializing in cleaning and packaging equipment for semiconductors, claims the third position among Chinese players. With a staggering 47% year-on-year revenue increase in the first half of the year, ACM Research raked in 1.61 billion yuan.
Challenges on the Horizon
The Quest for Advanced Chipmaking Tools
Despite these strides, China still faces challenges in accessing the most advanced chipmaking tools available. Notably, Dutch firm ASML manufactures an essential chipmaking tool called an extreme ultraviolet lithography machine, crucial for crafting cutting-edge chips. However, Dutch government restrictions have prevented the export of these machines to China.
A Glimpse of Progress
China’s Semiconductor Industry Advancements
Notwithstanding these challenges and concerns over escalating tensions with the U.S., China’s semiconductor industry is making discernible progress toward developing more advanced chips. A recent example is Huawei’s quiet launch of a new smartphone capable of connecting to next-generation 5G mobile networks. This achievement is notable because it utilizes a chip seemingly manufactured by SMIC, showcasing a level of technological advancement that may have surprised many observers.
In conclusion, the surge in revenue for China’s chip equipment firms underscores the nation’s determination to achieve self-reliance in the semiconductor industry. Despite the complexities of the global chip supply chain and external challenges, China’s domestic players are making significant strides, hinting at a promising future for the country’s semiconductor sector.