For decades, China has launched several initiatives to modernize its semiconductor industry with hopes of becoming the next IC powerhouse in Asia.
In 2001, for example, China unveiled its so-called “Tenth Five-Year Plan,” which called for the nation to build 25 new fabs from 2001 to 2005. At the time, the Chinese government hoped to start and fund a new crop of domestic foundry vendors. The new foundries were not only supposed to develop leading-edge technologies, but they would also make a larger percentage of the chips within China.
Generally, China has fallen short in many of its goals. The country has emerged as the world’s largest market for semiconductors, but it must still import the majority of its chips from foreign vendors. And for years, China’s foundries were plodding along with “me-too” and trailing-edge technologies.
Now, China is finally elevating its status in the IC industry on at least three fronts. First, after a long hiatus, the multinationals are investing in new fabs in China. For example, Samsung shortly will move into 3D NAND production in a new 300mm fab in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province. Separately, Taiwan’s United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) is mulling over plans to set up its second fab in China.
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