But that may not stop China’s technological ascent, said Lin, who’s highly regarded in the industry for being the first person to propose immersion lithography, the technology that ASML’s core products rely on.
“It is just not possible for the US to completely prevent China from improving its chip technology,” Lin said in an interview this week at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, where he serves as dean of the semiconductor research college. That echoed comments from Arm Holdings Plc boss Rene Haas this month.
“What the US really should do is to focus on maintaining its chip design leadership instead of trying to limit China’s progress, which is futile as China is adopting a whole nation strategy to boost its chip industry, and hurting the global economy,” Lin added.
In fact, the US may have inadvertently granted SMIC a golden opportunity, he argued.
Industry analysts including Haitong International Securities’s Jeff Pu have estimated that Huawei could build as many as 70 million smartphones using its own Kirin chips in 2024 – not insignificant compared to the roughly 220 million iPhones that Apple ships annually.
In another area of concern for Washington, China is also charging ahead on memory chips – a more commoditised type of silicon than processors but still critical in everything from smartphones and AI training servers to military drones.
Canadian research firm TechInsights discovered an advanced chip made by Yangtze Memory in a solid state drive launched around July – months after US curbs announced last year forced foreign equipment suppliers to sever ties with the Chinese semiconductor company. TechInsights, which unearthed SMIC’s and Huawei’s 7-nm chip through a joint investigation with Bloomberg News, found the 232-layer quad-level cell 3D NAND die during a routine device teardown, calling it one of the most advanced it had seen.
“YMTC is quietly developing advanced technology despite being hampered by issues following sanctions,” TechInsights said in a blog post on Tuesday. “Evidence is mounting that China’s momentum to overcome trade restrictions and build its own domestic semiconductor supply chain is more successful than expected.”