China semiconductor


2022-02-09

Undaunted by deadlocked US-Sino relations, China’s packaging and testing industry has emerged from the pandemic a champion

Undaunted by deadlocked US-Sino relations, the great pandemic of 2020, and the US Department of Commerce’s ban on Huawei’s use of software and equipment produced by US manufacturers in the same year, China’s packaging and testing industry has, instead, used these factors as stimulus get back on track. Faced with these three major challenges, the Chinese government has responded with policies such as domestically producing both equipment and semiconductors, allowing China’s packaging and testing industry to buck the trends set in 2020. According to TrendForce statistics, industry revenue in 2020 reached US$7.02 billion and approximately US$9.53 billion in 2021.

A brief summary of China’s packaging and testing industry in recent years is as follows: the US-Sino trade war has been raging since 2018 and, due to tariff issues and the gradual rise in personnel salaries, terminal manufacturers whom had already established plants or subsidiaries in China were forced to gradually relocate relevant factories to SE Asia and India in order to avoid growing overhead costs, moreover impacting the revenue performance of China’s packaging and testing industry. As of June 2019, the tariff issue remained unresolved due to dubious US.-Sino relations but this issue could no longer impede the revenue recovery momentum of China’s packaging and testing industry.

Packaging and testing and localized equipment skirts bans and a moderate threshold for technology research and development attracts overseas manufacturers

After the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed export control bans on Huawei, HiSilicon, and SMIC, the market mostly predicted that China’s packaging and testing industry would be hit next but this did not happen. According to TrendForce, the primary reason for this is that the nature of current back-end packaging and testing technology is relatively crude compared to front-end wafer manufacturing and, considering Chinese government’s recent policy of localizing equipment and the degree of substitutability of non-US equipment manufacturers, even if the U.S. Department of Commerce proposes further bans against the industry, its effects will be limited.

In response to the US-Sino trade conflict, the Chinese government has proposed relevant measures such as semiconductor autonomy which has driven a gradual mainstreaming of domestic equipment production plans. In addition, national funds have been continuously injected into semiconductor equipment manufacturers, even though the level of technological development at this stage remains inferior to major manufacturers in Europe, the United States, and Japan. However, for those with modest requirements for back-end process conditions, testing, and testing equipment, China’s domestic packaging and testing equipment does have a certain proportion and scale.

For example, relevant companies such as Hangzhou Changchuan and Shanghai Raintree have invested in the automatic optical inspection instruments (AOI) and testing equipment that are required in the latter stage of packaging and testing. On the other hand, due to the relatively low threshold for research and development of back-end packaging and testing equipment, many international companies such as Japan’s Advantest and Singapore’s Besi have also set up shops in China. Chinese packaging and testing and their equipment manufacturers are essentially unaffected by relevant export bans, so the industry can still anticipate technological and revenue performance in the next few years.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2021-10-13

EDA Expected to Become Primary Focus of Development under China’s New IC Policies

TrendForce’s investigations show that, among the three categories in the upstream semiconductor supply chain, which consist of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, materials, and EDA, China made the most progress regarding self-sufficiency in semiconductor equipment, followed by materials, with EDA coming in last, in 2020. In other words, Chinese companies are relatively slow to develop EDA solutions.

The EDA market is relatively oligopolistic and involves two US companies. That means once the US implements more stringent controls over the export of EDA technologies and products to China, China’s development of semiconductor self-sufficiency will most likely suffer dire consequences as a result. Even if Chinese domestic companies are able to supply semiconductor equipment for mature process nodes as well as technologies for chip design, manufacturing, and packaging/testing, these things are essentially inoperable without EDA software and technical support. That is to say, the EDA industry remains the final piece of the puzzle for China’s quest for semiconductor self-sufficiency. Since China’s new IC policies (termed the Policies for Promoting the High-Quality Development of the Integrated Circuit Industry and the Software Industry in the New Era) place more emphasis on semiconductor equipment, materials, and software, compared to past policies, EDA (for which China’s self-sufficiency rate is lower than 10%) will likely become the top developmental priority within the software category in the new IC policies.

Chinese EDA suppliers are likely to provide domestic substitute solutions for mature process nodes

As the Chinese semiconductor design and manufacturing industries continue to expand, the Chinese EDA software market is expected to grow at a 15.1% CAGR across 2020-2024, which is faster than the global average of 10.3%. Although Synopsys, Cadence, and Siemens still account for an approximately 80% share in the Chinese EDA market, domestic companies in China have been accelerating their pace of development in recent years. For instance, companies that have more than 10 years of experience developing EDA software, including S2C, Empyrean, Primarius, Xpeedic, NineCube, and Cellixsoft, are gradually making waves in the industry, while many other emerging companies, such as X-EPIC, Arcas, LEDA, and AMEDAC have also been attracting more attention in the EDA market recently. Now that China-US trade tensions have yet to be resolved, and China continues to proceed with its new IC policies, Chinese EDA suppliers will likely experience rapid growth going forward, especially in their attempt to create domestic substitutes for 28nm and other mature process technologies.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

2021-07-13

An Overview of IC Design and Equipment Suppliers Funded by China’s Big Fund Phase Two

TrendForce’s latest investigations indicate that China has recently announced two additional investments funded via phase two of the CICF (China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, better known as the “Big Fund”). The first of these investments was announced on June 8, 2021 and totaled CN¥1.65 billion, which has been used to establish a joint venture called Runxi Microelectronics, co-funded with CR Micro and the Xiyong Micro-Electronics Industrial Park.

Runxi will operate a semiconductor fab specializing in 12-inch wafer fabrication, with a production capacity of 30K/M (that is, 30,000 wafer starts per month). The second investment, announced on July 2, 2021, will total about CN¥2.5 billion and be put towards AMEC’s efforts to raise capital for establishing an industrial center, a headquarter located in the Shanghai Lin-Gang Special Area, and an R&D headquarter.

Now that the Big Fund Phase 2 has invested in semiconductor equipment for the first time, more equipment suppliers are expected to receive investment capital from Big Fund Phase 2 going forward

Established in October 2019, Phase 2 of the Big Fund consists of CN¥204.15 billion in capital, some of which was subsequently invested into 12 companies across the IC design, IC fabrication, package testing, and equipment sectors, as of July 5, 2021. In terms of funding allocation, IC fabrication take the lion’s share with 78.2% of the aforementioned investment, followed by IC design at 11.6%, equipment at 7.7%, and package testing at 2.6%. To date, about CN¥36.6 billion of the Big Fund Phase 2 has been invested.

Investment in AMEC marks the first time that the Big Fund Phase 2 has purchased shares in domestic suppliers of semiconductor fabrication equipment. As fabrication equipment is the key determinant of whether China can achieve its goal of semiconductor independence, suppliers that previously received Phase 1 funding (including Naura, ACM Research, Piotech, Sky Technology Development, and Shanghai Wanye Enterprises), as well as those that have yet to receive investment from the Big Fund (including SMEE and Hwatsing), are likely to receive Phase 2 funding for their expansion projects going forward.

China’s Big Fund provides the domestic semiconductor industry considerable leverage against US sanctions as AMEC receives financing unaffected by US blacklist

As a major supplier of semiconductor etching equipment in domestic China, AMEC specializes in substrate etching technologies. The company provides products which are used for 8-inch/12-inch wafer fabrication and are compatible with 65nm-5nm process technologies. In addition, AMEC has also been actively developing CVD (chemical vapor deposition) equipment, making it an indispensable part of the Chinese semiconductor supply chain.

AMEC effectively had its overseas financing sources cut off after being blacklisted by the US Department of Defense in January 2021. Now that the Big Fund Phase 2 has infused AMEC with CN¥8.207 billion of investment capital, the company is no longer threatened by its inclusion on the economic blacklist. Hence, the substantial Big Fund Phase 2 has also become an important instrument in China’s fight against US sanctions amidst a persistent trade war currently taking place between the two countries.

(Cover image source: Unsplash)

2021-07-07

For Importation of US Semiconductor Equipment into China, Slow Progress Is Good Progress

The inclusion of certain Chinese semiconductor companies on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List in the past few years has created repercussions throughout industries and markets, with the semiconductor industry coming under heavy scrutiny by both China and the US. After SMIC was hit with a string of sanctions last year, including the EAR and the NS-CCMC List, recent rumors of further US actions on China are now once again making the rounds on social media platforms.

In particular, there have been rumors saying that the US has prohibited TSMC and UMC from importing 28nm process technology equipment into China for their fabs there. Conversely, some industry insiders from China point out that, although the US did not impose such prohibition, the export approval process for the aforementioned equipment has been conspicuously lengthy.

In reality, the Department of Commerce has levied procurement restrictions on SMIC specifically, while foundries unspecified on the Entity List have not been explicitly barred from importing semiconductor equipment for use in their China-based fabs. Although some are noting that the approval processes for semiconductor equipment exported to fabs located in China have been unusually lengthy recently, these processes are not specifically aimed at equipment for the 28nm process technology.

Instead, they apply to all semiconductor equipment exported from the US to China. It should also be noted that the approval processes for some exported equipment are currently progressing well, and foundries have already taken the extended lead times into account, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Hence, the lengthy approval processes have not been observed to have any negative impact on the semiconductor industry at the moment.

(Cover image source: ASML

2021-06-16

An Overview of the Most Competitive Domestic Equipment Substitutes as China Ramps up Its Semiconductor Independence Efforts

In recent years, China has been aggressively pursuing the build-out of an independent semiconductor supply chain as it attempts to eschew dependence on foreign suppliers. The key to China’s success is whether it can establish domestic suppliers of semiconductor equipment.

Looking at the current state of China’s semiconductor independence, it should be pointed out that Chinese suppliers of semiconductor equipment have been making the greatest progress on the CMP, etching, and cleaning fronts, while lagging behind in terms of deposition, ion implantation, and photolithography.

CMP equipment is used for polishing silicon wafers and metallic/non-metallic thin films. TrendForce estimates that about 26% of all such equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was sourced from domestic companies. CMP equipment manufactured by Chinese brands can support process technologies as advanced as the 14nm node, which is sufficient for meeting the current demand of Chinese foundries.

An indispensable aspect of silicon or dielectric etch applications, about 24% of all etching equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was sourced from domestic companies. Chinese-manufactured etching equipment can currently support process technologies as advanced as the 5nm node.

Used for cleaning wafers after the deposition process, CMP process, etching process, and ion implantation process, about 23% of all cleaning equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was sourced from domestic companies.


Cleaning equipment manufactured by Chinese brands can support process technologies as advanced as the 14nm node. Remarkably, more Chinese companies have been entering this market segment compared to other semiconductor equipment, while some Chinese suppliers are already able to compete with major foreign suppliers in terms of market shares.

Used for PVD, CVD, and ALD processes, about 10% of all deposition equipment procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was domestically sourced. Chinese-manufactured deposition equipment can support process technologies as advanced as the 14nm node. However, as the technological barrier for manufacturing these products is relatively high, Chinese suppliers are still in the process of catching up to their global competitors in terms of technology. Hence, it remains difficult for Chinese suppliers to continue raising their market shares in the short run.

Likewise, as the technological barrier for manufacturing ion implantation and photolithography equipment is relatively high, equipment from Chinese suppliers is unlikely to support advanced process technologies in the short run despite these suppliers’ aggressive R&D efforts. In terms of self-sufficiency, about 5% and 1% of all ion implantation equipment and photolithography equipment, respectively, procured by Chinese foundries in 2020 was domestically manufactured.

(Cover image source: Unsplash)

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