Major U.S. companies are participating in the 25th China IC Manufacturing Annual Conference, despite widening restrictions on sales of advanced semiconductor technology to China by the U.S. government. Applied Materials, Lam Research, and KLA, along with German industrial group Siemens, are among the main sponsors of the event.
The participation of these high-profile companies highlights the industry's eagerness to stay connected with China, the world's largest market for semiconductors and their production equipment. According to an industry executive, losing the Chinese market would not only affect global earnings but also cede growth opportunities to Chinese competitors. The event's theme is supply chain innovation, following the Biden administration's efforts to restrict China's access to advanced semiconductors. While the U.S. and its allies are trying to limit China's progress in advanced fields, Beijing is pushing for "Chinese-style" self-reliance in semiconductors, according to a professor of microelectronics at Tsinghua University. Despite strong backing from the state, China's cutting-edge in semiconductor production is at the 14-nanometer level, far behind the world's leading chipmakers. Therefore, to advance, Chinese chipmakers will have to rely on foreign technology. However, given the size of the Chinese market, global chip industry companies cannot afford to abandon it, as stated by Wei. The event featured presentations highlighting current and future development plans by some of the sponsors. According to SEMI, a trade group, China led the world in sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment for a third straight year in 2022, accounting for nearly 30% of the global total and falling by just 5% despite the disruption caused by the now-ended zero-COVID lockdowns and pressure from U.S. trade restrictions.