SMIC’s breakthrough puts the company’s semiconductors in the same league as Samsung and Taiwan’s TSMC
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), China’s top chip manufacturer, has quietly produced chips to the highest Western standards, despite US sanctions specifically aimed at hampering its development of such technology, according to a report confirmed by Bloomberg on Thursday.
Tech Insights reports that the firm, based in Shanghai, has manufactured Bitcoin-mining chips using 7-nanometer technology (nm). Bloomberg confirmed this report, citing an unnamed source who could not be reached for comment.
A chip’s nanometer figure refers to the size of the transistors involved. One nanometer is equal to one billionth of an inch. The smaller this number, the greater the amount of transistors that can fit onto a chip. Also, it will make the chip more efficient and faster.
SMIC has previously made chips in 14nm. However, the US is trying to prevent any advancements beyond that level. Trump banned SMIC’s export of semiconductor equipment of 10nm to 2020. US-based companies are prohibited from selling the Chinese machine manufacturer ASML.
ASML has been banned from selling the most sophisticated chipmaking equipment to SMIC. It is not clear if the Dutch government will increase this ban, as Biden requested.
These advanced tools have been used by Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung to make 7nm semiconductors, while US-based Intel is projected to release its own 7nm chip next year. According to analysts, the 12nm-thick chips that are available on the European and American markets right now have the highest quality.
SMIC’s escape from US export restrictions to achieve the 7nm mark is still unclear. But, analysts previously mentioned suggested that SMIC may have changed its 14nm equipment.
As well as representing a leap ahead for China, which has previously lagged behind the US in semiconductor development, SMIC’s breakthrough presents an added geopolitical challenge for Washinton, where the foreign policy establishment is also trying to throttle Russia’s access to Western technology.
US Department of Commerce warned in March that it would withhold software manufacturing from SMIC if the company continued to export semiconductors to Russia, Belarus and China. The Chinese government, which partially owns SMIC, insisted at the time that it would not join the West’s sanctions campaign against Moscow and would “continue to maintain normal trade, economic, and financial ties”Russia
China is sticking to its position. SMIC however has stated explicitly that it has not had Russian customers and has. “always been operating in compliance”With US sanctions
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