[News] Intel CEO Claims China’s Chip Manufacturing Lags Behind by 10 Years, Gap to Persist

2024-01-19 Semiconductors editor

According to the report from TechNews, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, speaking at the World Economic Forum, stated that export sanctions from the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands are temporarily limiting China’s development in semiconductor processes below 7 nanometers.

Despite China’s ongoing efforts to advance its semiconductor industry and design more sophisticated chip manufacturing tools, it still lags behind the global semiconductor industry by approximately ten years, and Gelsinger believes this gap will persist.

Gelsinger suggests that to some extent, the policies of the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands set a threshold of 10 to 7 nanometers for China’s semiconductor industry. Currently, SMIC has 7-nanometer technology, lagging approximately five and a half years behind TSMC and Samsung. Shanghai Huali Microelectronics (HLMC) began trial production based on 14-nanometer FinFET process in 2020, trailing TSMC by nine to ten years.

Both SMIC and HLMC utilize manufacturing equipment and materials from the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. However, due to the unavailability of these raw materials, Chinese companies have had to develop their own wafer fab equipment and find methods for purifying gases, resists, and other chemicals used in advanced chip manufacturing.

Gelsinger estimates that China’s semiconductor industry lags behind the global standard by about ten years and, although it will continue to develop, he foresees this gap persisting for the next decade. Given the highly interconnected nature of the semiconductor industry, encompassing companies like Zeiss, ASML, Japanese chemical suppliers, and Intel for mask manufacturing, he believes that this cumulative difference amounts to a ten-year gap and will continue to do so under export policies.

If China cannot acquire advanced chip equipment and technology, Chinese semiconductor companies might attempt to narrow the gap with the global semiconductor industry through reverse engineering and replication. While not a sustainable approach, it may be the only choice available.

Regarding advanced processes, Gelsinger also mentioned that Intel is actively developing technologies below 2 nanometers and is looking beyond to 1.5 nanometers, stating, “We are racing to go below 2nm and then 1.5nm, and you know we see no end to that in sight.”

(Image: Intel)

Please note that this article cites information from TechNews