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China squeezes the West’s access to gallium, germanium

China squeezes the West’s access to gallium, germanium

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By Peter Clarke

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China has said it will impose export controls on gallium and germanium, chemicals used in the making of semiconductors and other electronic components, in an apparent escalation of tension between China and the US and its allies.

The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the General Administration of Customs (GAC) posted notices Monday that said, starting on August 1, eight items related to gallium, and six items related to germanium, could not be exported without state approval. That is according to Global Times, a newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party.

The reason given was that it was necessary to “safeguard national security and interests.”

However, the Global Times report drew attention to the recent move by the Dutch government to add deep ultraviolet lithography equipment to a list of semiconductor manufacturing equipment exports that require licenses (see ASML sees export controls on latest DUV lithography equipment). This has come almost a year since the US government raised the issue (see US seeks to expand ban on ASML’s China sales).

Key to compound semiconductors

Both gallium and germanium are key in the making of semiconductors and optoelectronics.

Gallium is fundamental to compound semiconductors such as gallium arsenide (GaAs) used in high-frequency circuits for military and communications applications. It is also used in gallium-nitride (GaN) used in power and RF semiconductors. Germanium is a stand-alone semiconductor but also used extensively as a dopant in silicon circuits.

China accounted for about 98 percent of the world’s gallium production in 2022 and China was also the world’s leading producer of germanium in 2022, according to the US Geological Survey.

China has called for the Netherlands to continue supplying chip making equipment to China.

Related links and articles:

Global Times article

News articles:

ASML sees export controls on latest DUV lithography equipment).

US seeks to expand ban on ASML’s China sales

Japan plans to ‘nationalize’ chip materials leader JSR

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