Gao Sangtao served as vice president of Sino IC Capital from October 2014 to November 2019 and is under investigation for “serious violation of laws,” a report stated. It referenced a statement from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
Sino IC Capital was set up in August 2014 to manage the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund – also known as the Big Fund – which was perceived to be an instrument of government policy to try and catch with the west in chip design and manufacturing. It managed a fund of 130 billion yuan (about US$20 billion) which came from such sources as the Ministry of Finance, China Development Bank, China Tobacco and China Mobile, the reports asserts.
However, the fund was exhausted by the end of 2018 but raised a further 200 billion yuan (about US$31 billion) in 2019. This was a time when the US administration of President Trump started to exert supply chain pressure on China.
The stimulus was highly successful at creating chip companies although many have failed to gain traction in the market. According to Caixin Global there were some 138,000 chip design startups were registered in China, as of September 2020.
In November 2019 Gao moved to found another fund led by the Ministry of Finance with nearly 150 billion yuan to spend aiding Chinese chip manufacturing.
But in the period since 2019 even some of China’s higher profile chip companies have started to struggle.
Wuhan Hongxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (HSMC) was a $18.5 billion startup with plans to make 14nm and then 7nm chips but it ran out of cash earlier this year with never a wafer processed.
The company was a joint venture with the municipal government of Wuhan that got caught out by Covid-19 as well as US restrictions but which may have obtained money by exaggerating its technical capabilities.
Tsinghua Unigroup was formed as a comglomerate of some of China’s more successful fabless chip companies; notably Spreadtrum and RDA Microelectronics. It also invested in the creation of of memory manufacturer Yangste Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC).
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