back to article US expands efforts to hamstring China’s chipmaking mojo

The US government is reportedly stepping up efforts to hamper China's ability to grow its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities by pressing for a wider ban on key chipmaking gear. Uncle Sam hopes to convince officials in the Netherlands to block Dutch-native semiconductor equipment maker ASML from selling its older deep …

  1. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Presumably a ban will just accelerate PRC efforts to build their own EUV lithography kit or maybe improve on it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup, and listen for the whinging that "those dastardly Chinese are doing espionage and copying our equipment and making it themselves without paying us", instead of milling around looking hopeless, like Daleks who've just discovered staircases, and realise the plan to dominate the universe has been thwarted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Daleks don't use stairs; they level the building.

        But yes, the Chinese will steal the technology either via direct espionage, or if that is somehow prevented then they'll buy up old machines via a recycling front company or similar and it'll all end up being reverse engineered.

        At best it'll slow their progress down for a few years.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          the Chinese will steal the technology

          I have a problem with using the word "steal" when you refuse to supply on a systematic, nation wide basis.

          I have trouble seeing that industrial secrets to making products you refuse to supply, are not the legitimate target of state espionage when they are critical to national security - and it is the US that has asserted that semiconductors are.

          ASML should get 90 days to confirm that they will deliver, on non-discriminatory terms, after that the Chinese govt allows domestic or other foreign suppliers to apply for a patent exception allowing the use of all needed patents, expiring 5 years after supply is restored.

          Tough titty for ASML, but it is not the fault of Chinese chip fabs that the US wants to keep them out of business, and I can't see why anyone thinks it would be reasonable for China to go along with that.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Exactly, the Chinese are very good at the long term and know full well that whatever the West (US) tries to do, they will simply find a way round it.

      The try, get it wrong, go back, fix things, and try again, repeating until they are very good.

      Look at their automotive industry.

      This will be exactly the same, they will develop their own lithography tools and wham, job done and even better, no need to buy machines from the West.

      Next thing you know is they are the only producer of the equipment.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Uncle Sam has Lost the Plot. Take him away to Bellevue and Riker's Island before the Lot is Lost.

    The US government is reportedly stepping up efforts to hamper China's ability to grow its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities.... Uncle Sam hopes to convince officials in the Netherlands to block Dutch-native semiconductor equipment maker ASML from selling its older deep ultraviolet lithography (DUV) systems to China, ..... US officials are keen on cutting off China from the company's past-gen systems, .... US officials are also trying to convince the Japanese government to halt sales of DUV systems from Japan-based Nikon, ...... the Dutch government has not granted the company a license to do so after facing pressure from — you guessed it — the United States.

    How to make friends and influence people, not. Act like an absolute moron and Big Brother machine with shit for brains.

    It does have one asking the question though ..... Why would anyone listen to such requests and comply whenever they can so easily, and therefore always do and will, result in one rightly being considered and labelled as a class enemy of free enterprise and universal progress easily led up the rocky path road to the stagnant swamps and bottomless degrading fiat money pits of self-harming destructive economic warfare? Is acting like an absolute moron and Big Brother machine with shit for brains a sure sign of the final stages of a terminal diseased brain condition, both surgically inoperable and medically untreatable, with palliative care the only comfort available if the Dignitas route be denied one?

    Or is it, along with its IT and media support and spread mechanism, much more like a deadly virus that plagues and decimates humanity?

    How then would you combat and treat it to eradicate it?

  3. Lordrobot

    US Nancy Kerrigan Kneecapping style Competition

    Start with a few basic facts. Only 5% of the Global Chip market is 14nm or less. China is focused on 95% of the market and has plenty of capability at 14nm and more. In fact, with a double pass they can achieve 7nm. So the focus by the Politicians in the USA, the intellectual bottom rung, is misplaced.

    The most stunning aspect of this is how much control the US Gov has over the Dutch Gov. Enough to block ASML's customer base and in this instance ASML's third-largest customer CHINA. The US government did this to INTEL many times. China was building a supercomputer and had a contract for Intel chips. Obama blocked that sale. 15 months later China had developed their own fast RISC chips and built the world's fastest supercomputer of its time. Asian manufacturers stopped using Intel chips and Intel lost the entire handheld market. Thank the US Gov Intel.

    This has played out over and over again. China's space program, blocked by US suppliers and the US. China now has its own homegrown program and a space station with ION engines.

    China knows how to decouple. Last week A Chinese Air Carrier bought $38 Billion of Aircraft from Airbus, snubbing Boeing the single largest US exporter.

    China is the largest buyer and user of chips. When you can't sell your chips to China, you don't sell your chips because the rest of Asia is afraid of US Sanctions so they all avoid US products.

    The unique pressure point is ASML lithography. It is a monopoly controlled by the USA. Just as Intel was once a monopoly of X-86 chips. Intel is now outclassed by AMD. Thus, for intel, it has been nothing but downhill from the monopoly. The same thing will apply to ASML. Here today, gone tomorrow. Even the CEO of ASML has repeated this. He knows China will develop its own lithography and when it does, it will no longer need ASML or other European suppliers.

    Think about some of the nutty things the Pentagon has said recently. They say if China moves to take Taiwan then TSMC should destroy its EUV ASML Machines. Think about that. Would the US have any interest in Taiwan if not for the Taiwan Fab? Of course not and Taiwan knows it. Taiwan's largest customer is Mainland China and 46% of the population of Taiwan identify as Mainlanders.

    Why give China a reason to take Taiwan? If they do then the US semiconductor Fab is out of business. Even without Taiwan, China is now nearly 80% self-sufficient in chips. The US would be out of business.

    ASML initially scoffed at China's ability to make a Lithography device. Not any more. China has been amassing capability. They now make their own ion implanters and have access to the wash bath substrates. China is not standing still.

    If the US were to block ASML lithography, then China should move on TSMC, not Taiwan. The US hasn't learned a thing about Asia since their defeat in Vietnam. It is shocking that the bully keeps coming back for more and each time with bigger and bigger claims on the rest of the world. Europe and the US blocking China looks more like a race war every day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US Nancy Kerrigan Kneecapping style Competition

      Only 5% of the Global Chip market is 14nm or less.

      And only 1% of anything that actually, really matters if we didn't have it. I strongly suspect that far from nobbling them, stopping them wasting time and money on GPU's, AI accelerators, and Crypto mining , will leave them even further ahead.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: 46% of the population of Taiwan identify as Mainlanders

      Oh really ?

      Citation, please.

      1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

        Re: 46% of the population of Taiwan identify as Mainlanders

        Taiwan Independence vs. Unification with the Mainland(1994/12~2021/12)

        Seems that ~80% choose one of the following:

        Maintain status quo indefinitely

        Maintain status quo, move towards independence

        Independence as soon as possible

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: US Nancy Kerrigan Kneecapping style Competition

      Would the US have any interest in Taiwan if not for the Taiwan Fab? Of course not and Taiwan knows it.

      The extremely extensive collection of Ex USN ships that Taiwan operated from just after WW2 (arguably the only reason Taiwan exists; as sailing junks vs WW2 destroyers ends badly) suggests rather persuasively that chip fabs weren't the only reason assistance was provided.

  4. mark l 2 Silver badge

    If the entire worlds chip manufacturing ability relies on just one company (ASML) supplying the lithography equipment then we really do have all our eggs in one basket and we are asking for trouble should something catastrophic happen to their facilities.

    1. Duncan Macdonald

      even worse

      ASML relies on a ZEISS factory in Germany to produce the ultra flat mirrors (for EUV) and lenses (for DUV). Without the optical components from ZEISS, ASML can not produce new machines or repair existing ones.

      (One critical point of failure was not enough - so another was introduced. If governments were sensible they would insist that these critical factories were replicated in different continents to avoid catastrophic problems. Given what governments are however ....)

    2. Jon 37

      ASML's equipment is in lots of fabs. Losing ASML would not affect that immediately. It would only affect the supply of new machines, and some parts. There would be time to deal with the problem.

      Also, since ASML is very profitable, it's unlikely to go bust or be taken over by a new owner who makes major changes to it. And any chipmaker who tried to acquire it would fall afoul of regulators, since ASML is a monopoly.

      1. Duncan Macdonald

        The ASML machines require regular spare parts as some parts degrade in operation. Some of those parts are the ultra precise optical components from ZEISS.

        Even if full manufacturing details for the parts were available it would take years to restart their production - the EUV mirrors are so flat that if they were the size of Germany the largest bump would only be 1mm tall.

        A factory capable of that precision (higher than the precision of a high end IC FAB) takes years to make.

        If something destroyed the ASML factories or the ZEISS ones then high end IC manufacture would come to a grinding halt for several years.

  5. Lars Silver badge

    In copetition

    You either build a bigger factory or you try to burn down your competitors factory, which ever is easier. I suppose.

  6. orphic

    The Chinese are on the cusp of releasing their own DUV machine, produced by SMEE. So what is the point of banning ASML from supplying DUV machines? A ban in this instance would simply leave the Chinese market without competition to China's domestic producer of lithography.

    This in turn would allow them to increase sales revenue, providing funds for further research and development. ASML for its part would be partially hampered, as China is the largest buyer of its DUV, and a crucial part of its lithography output would lose sales. Increasing its reliance on one product, its EUV machines.

    The Dutch government would be crazy to go along with this American request. No one else is buying DUV machines in the quantities that China is, and all non-Chinese fabs can make the switch to EUV lithography, meaning EUV competes with DUV outside China.

    Strategically the US efforts make little sense as they remove the last vestiges of leverage that the US or indeed the West has over China.

    1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

      Hate to break it to you but once China gets your machines they will use them speed up the process of making their own and pushing you out of business. The Dutch and many others are already aware of this phenomena, so even without the US pressure its a factor they consider.

      China also knows how to pay insider Westerners to argue it cases - there is virtually no risk to those receiving payment for such service. Unlike Chinese representing Western companies who disappear into the penal system regularly.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        That's just nonsense. China works like every other country -- businesses make business decisions, deploying capital and resource to best serve the goals of the business. Unlike Cold War Part Deux they were playing the Good Global Citizen game -- buying and selling on the global market, getting chips fabbed by TSMC (for example) and turning them into phones that they'd then sell on the world market. (The phones themselves would be in a standards patent pool -- to make global products you have to work globally, its not just a matter getting the blueprint from your spy and setting up shop, things just don't work that way.)

        Anyway, along comes Uncle Sam and not only completely screws up the global trade balance but also starts what could only charitably be called a race war with the Chinese. This has two effects. One, at the business level, changes the build/make calculus; its already been noted that all you're going to get out of that is a couple of years breathing room before a rather formidable competitor emerges. (The second go round always produces a better product.) The racist angle not only unleashed Chinese nationalism, giving the Chinese a national purpose in sticking it to Uncle Sam and his sycophants, it also made it impossible to conceive that those foreign people are quite as smart and as capable as we are. So the only way they're going to get technology is to steal it. That's utter BS, and if you've ever worked in technology in the US you'd know why.

        Anyway, nice to know we've got at least one growth industry in the US -- devising, implementing and enforcing sanctions. Too bad about the other stuff.

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