The US government is considering restricting exports of mature process chips to mainland China.
According to reports, the US Department of Commerce has sought opinions from major chip companies including Intel and TSMC on new export controls. The regulations may require licenses for exports of chips made with mature manufacturing processes to China.
Mature manufacturing processes refer to chip production technology that is more than two generations old. Currently, chips made with 28nm process and above fall into this category.
The US held talks with Netherlands and Japan, hoping to reach an agreement to jointly limit mature chip exports to China. With support from allies, the US Commerce Department may roll out new export control rules for mature chips targeting China as early as October.
If implemented, the restrictions could deal a serious blow to China’s chip manufacturing capabilities. A large number of Chinese chip companies manufacture chips using 28nm process and above mature processes. These include SMIC, Hua Hong, ChangXin Memory Technologies, among others. Their production could be affected.
However, some analysts believe the actual impact needs to be assessed. Mature process chips only account for a small percentage of China’s total chip imports. Advanced sub-10nm chips are the real targets China hopes to achieve self-sufficiency in.
The US crackdown aims to curb China’s high-tech development. But experts say if overdone, it could disrupt semiconductor supply chains and hurt the industry’s overall interests. The US should strike a balance between national security and economic development.