© 4designersart dreamstime.com Analysis | February 13, 2017
Without technology, China’s 'MIC 2025' to fall short of its goals
IC Insights believes China’s self-sufficiency targets for ICs of 40 percent in 2020 and 70 percent in 2025 are unrealistic.
China’s government has a long-term goal to become self-sufficient with regards to IC devices. Its “Made in China 2025” (MIC 2025) plan was published by the China State Council in May of 2015. The milestones in MIC 2025 are for China to be 40% self-sufficient in IC devices in 2020 and 70% in 2025. In reality, it is naive to believe that being 40%, 70%, or whatever percentage less than 100%, is even close to being self-sufficient in the IC industry. In just about every case, the lack of just one low-value IC (e.g., a mixed-signal analog device), process material (e.g., a specific chemical or gas used in fabricating ICs), or package type will stop the entire electronic system from being produced and shipped. As an example, in the early 1980s, the U.S. government attempted to make sure that every wafer processing and packaging material as well as every piece of semiconductor processing equipment that was used to make military ICs have at least one U.S. source. Even more than 30 years ago, when IC processing was much less complex than it is now, this program had to be abandoned due to the impossible task of making sure there was a U.S. source for literally thousands of items. The bottom line is that anything less than 100% self-sufficiency in the IC industry is not self-sufficient. The success of MIC 2025 is fundamentally dependent upon two things—funding and technology. The goals of MIC 2025 have almost no chance of success without strong results in both of these areas. IC Insights considers each one to have equal weight on the potential final outcome. There is near-unanimous consensus that funding will not be a hindrance for the potential success of MIC 2025. China’s National Government has approved approximately $20 billion of funding support for its IC industry programs with almost another $100 billion of possible support coming from local Chinese governments, provinces, and private investors. In total, the tens of billions of dollars of funding now targeting the IC industry is probably sufficient to construct at least 10 high-volume 300mm IC production fabrication facilities. It should be noted that regardless of what happens with China-based IC production in the long run, IC equipment companies are in prime position to benefit from this massive spending spree over the next few years. IC Insights believes that the huge roadblock standing in the way of the success of MIC 2025 is the ability of the Chinese to acquire the IC technology to be used in the newly funded fabs. Beginning in 2014, the Chinese sought to acquire technology by acquiring existing IC suppliers. The Chinese had some early success in acquiring companies like ISSI and OmniVision, but most governments are now on “high alert” with regard to China’s IC industry ambitions and future foreign IC company acquisitions will be very difficult to complete. Essentially, the window of opportunity for the Chinese to attain IC technology through foreign company acquisitions is now closed. Although the amount of money reported to be allocated toward constructing the new indigenous Chinese company IC fabs has been massive, the technology announced to be used in these fabs has in every case been at least two generations behind what the market leaders in that segment are currently using or will be using when the fab opens. Some examples are shown below.
- XMC (purchased by Tsinghua Unigroup in July 2016 and put in a holding company called Yangtze River Storage Technology)—32-layer 3D NAND technology.
- Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit—32nm DRAM technology.
- Shanghai Huali (HLMC)—28nm foundry logic capability.
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