China is stepping up its development of advanced chips, pushing for a homegrown 28 nm manufacturing process to enter mass production later this year.
According to China.org.cn, China is also aiming to achieve 14 nm process technology by next year.
The 28 nm process node is considered the point between low-to-mid range and mid-to-high end chips in semiconductor manufacturing. At 28 nm, central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs) and artificial intelligence (AI) chips are produced for TVs, air conditioners, vehicles, trains, satellites, robots, elevators, drones and more.
"China urgently needs to move toward mid-to-high end chip production and being able to produce 28 nm chips means that it can meet most of the demand for chips without relying on other countries," said Teng Ran, head of the Integrated Circuit Industry Research Center of CCID Consulting, a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) think tank.
If China can reach the 14 nm node for chipmaking in 2022, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), one of China’s largest foundries, will join Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC) and Samsung as a leader in semiconductor manufacturing, Ran said. SMIC will be able to apply the manufacturing process to areas such as 5G technology and high-performance computing.
In 2020, Chinese chip sales reached $137.7 billion with an average annual growth rate of 20%, about three times the growth rate of the global IC industry, according to the MIIT. Additionally, chip manufacturing technologies exceeded expectations with breakthroughs in millimeter wave for 5G and the tape-out of SMIC’s FinFet N+1 process chip.
While progress is being made, Ran said that China is still playing catch up when it comes to advanced chip development and called for more international collaboration to not be isolated from the supply chain.