China aims to strengthen its semiconductor supply chain with new standards group that includes Huawei, SMIC

·3 min read

China is mobilising experts from academia and private industry, including telecoms champion Huawei Technologies Co and its chip design unit HiSilicon, to push forward with standardisation of the domestic semiconductor industry in a bid to better protect supply-chain integrity amid ongoing US sanctions that restrict China’s access to advanced foreign technologies and products.

The proposal, originally put forward by the China Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI), said a new semiconductor standardisation committee would “support and guarantee the healthy development of the integrated circuit (IC) industry”, according to a statement published by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Friday.

The MIIT is canvassing public opinion on the proposal until the end of February.

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Silicon wafer being processed. Photo: Shutterstock
Silicon wafer being processed. Photo: Shutterstock

CESI said the rapid development of the Chinese IC industry over the past few years has outpaced the current standardisation framework in semiconductor design, test and packaging, and microelectromechanical systems set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (ICE), an international standards organisation.

“Many domestic companies have launched their own artificial intelligence chips, but there is no unified performance evaluation standard,” the document read, noting that the absence of such a standard increases communication costs between chip makers and their customers, making it more difficult to maintain “an orderly industrial environment”.

Taiwan’s grip on semiconductors ‘a choke point’ in global supply chain

The proposal comes as China has galvanised efforts to remove what it views as a US “stranglehold” over its semiconductor industry amid Washington’s sanctions on Chinese tech companies, such as Huawei and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co.

“As the foundation and core of the information industry, the IC industry occupies a pivotal position in the national economy and social development,” CESI said, adding that it is a “strategic industry” that also ensures national security.

A committee of 90 members has already been established, including some of the country’s leading semiconductor companies, such as SMIC and Huawei’s HiSilicon chip design unit. China’s other tech champions that are on the members’ list include Tencent Holdings, Xiaomi Corp and Alibaba Group Holding, the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

Besides, private industry, the standards committee also includes representatives from China’s top universities such as Tsinghua University, known for its clout in the IC industry, and Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT).

In June last year, the Bureau of Industry and Security under the US Department of Commerce added HIT to its Entity List over allegations it was using US tech for China‘s missile programme. Chinese companies on the Entity List must apply for a licence to import US-made products and services.

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