China spent $40bn on chip gear in 2023 to avoid US sanctions
New data has revealed that China imported almost USD 40 billion worth of machinery last year in a bid to strengthen its domestic semiconductor manufacturing capability.
The stats come from Bloomberg, which looked at official customs data to calculate that imports of machinery used to make computer chips rose 14% in 2023. To put this into perspective, overall imports to China dropped by 5.5%.
China's goal is obvious: it wants to become self-sufficient in chip manufacturing and thereby to avoid the export controls imposed by the US and its allies. These sanctions are making it harder for Chinese companies to access the machines needed to make the advanced chips need to make next-gen AI applications, data centres and military tech.
The new numbers chime with another recent report by Bloomberg, which concluded that production in China could more than double within the next five to seven years. The study looked at 48 Chinese chip manufacturers and concluded that 60% of the expected additional capacity could come online within three years. The analysis went on to suggest that the new capacity will produce mature semiconductors (28nm and above) rather than advanced chips.
One illustration of China's desire to secure its chip future came in December, when customs authorities reported a 1050% surge in the import value of lithography equipment from the Netherlands. To that point, Dutch lithography supplier ASML was able to sell to Chinese customers involved in mature or traditional 28nm semiconductor manufacturing, because this was exempt from controls.