Chinese chip progress is limited and slow, says analyst
The Chinese chip manufacturing figure is down from a previously given estimate of $47 billion (see IC Insights, SEMI far apart on significance of Chinese IC production).
Tariffs and trade issues now starting to disrupt electronics companies are forcing China to try and accelerate its plans for chip manufacturing and self-sufficiency but it could take decades of concerted action to address China’s chip deficit, the market researcher said.
China IC market versus China IC production over time. Source: IC Insights.
IC Insights has now published a bulletin that argues that China’s resolve to grow its domestic IC business and reduce dependence on the US is more optimistic than realistic. The argument has been raised before (see IC Insights, SEMI far apart on significance of Chinese IC production).
But IC Insights has now put some anecdotal flesh on the bones of the argument. For a start the market analyst points out that China has already spent a considerable amount of money bringing up memory fabs it has yet to make any significant in-roads in the market.
China’s first indigenous DRAM supplier, Changxin Memory Technologies (CXMT), is due to sample its first DRAM products by the end of this year, IC Insights observes. It’s annual capital expenditure budget of $1.5 billion is insignificant compared with the $46.2 billion combined annual spend of Micron, Samsung and SK Hynix. DRAM and flash memory accounted for 41 percent of China’s $155.1 billion IC market last year, IC Insights estimates.
“IC Insights remains extremely sceptical whether the country can develop a competitive indigenous memory industry even over the next 10 years and come anywhere close to meeting its memory IC needs,” the analyst said in the Bulletin.
Next: The second plank
The second plank of IC Insight’s argument is that in logic and other non-memory IC technology China is even further away from meetings its own market needs.
Although there are emerging Chinese image sensor, MEMS and FPGA companies there are no major Chinese manufacturers in analog, mixed-signal, server MPU, MCU, or specialty logic ICs. IC Insights reckons it will take Chinese companies decades to become competitive in these non-memory IC product segments.
Of the $155 billion worth of ICs sold in China in 2018, only $24.0 billion or 15.5 percent was manufactured in China, IC Insights states. And of the $24.0 billion worth of ICs manufactured in China last year, China-headquartered companies produced only $6.5 billion accounting for only 4.2 percent of the country’s $155 billion IC market.
That relatively tiny amount breaks down at about $1 billion from Chinese IDMs and $5.5 billion in Chinese foundries such as SMIC.
Whereas the industry organization SEMI reckons China will account for 20 percent of the world’s wafer fab capacity by the end of 2020, (see China set to make a fifth of world’s chips in 2020) IC Insights argues that Chinese owned manufacturing will not have reached that figure by 2023. But in that year IC Insights reckons Chinese owned capacity will produce $45.2 billion or 19.7 percent of a domestic market worth $229 billion.
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