The Chinese central government is soliciting funds from foreign investors for its semiconductor development ambitions, as a trade tensions with the US threaten to stymie access to American technology.
Chen Yin (陈因), chief engineer and media spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said at a State Council press conference held on 25 April that China is currently conducting its second round of fund-raising for the National Integrated Circuit Investment Fund, and welcomes investment from foreign enterprises.
The move comes amidst escalating trade tensions between China and the United States, as well as the launch of a ban on the sale of American chips to Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp.
The National Integrated Circuit Fund has already raised around $22 billion, raising the hackles of US politicians who are concerned that a state-backed Chinese firm could pose a threat to American chip giants like Qualcomm.
The US trade representative made specific reference to China’s semiconductor ambitions in a trade report that greenlighted the levying of up to $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports.
The import and adoption of advanced America technology has been one of the chief bones of contention in the ongoing Sino-US trade stoush, with commerce minister Zhong Shan recently calling for Washington to dial back restrictions on tech exports.
“I believe that trade competitiveness is fundamentally industrial competitiveness, and Sino-US trade imbalances are related to US controls on hi-tech exports to China,” said Zhong.
Chinese officials have expressed confidence that even in the absence of access to US imports, they can obtain a lead when it comes to advanced technologies.
Diao Shijing (刁石京), a senior official from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said to China National Radio that the domestic chip sector is fast approaching leading world standards.
“We are already very closely approaching the world’s first ranks, especially when it comes to chip design and rapid expansion of industry scale,” said Diao. “Chips manufactured in China are used in everything from daily life to industrial spheres to future artificial intelligence and smart cars.”
Chinese tech tycoon and Alibaba founder Jack Ma said in Japan on Wednesday that China needed to avoid over-dependence on US imports by developing its own “core technology.”
“We believe the internet of things is the future…most things that have electricity will have chips inside,” said Ma at Tokyo’s Waseda University.
“So we need cheaper chips, effective chips, inclusive chips that can be everywhere.”