back to article China seems to have figured out how to make 7nm chips despite US sanctions

Chinese semiconductor giant SMIC has reportedly been manufacturing 7-nanometer chips since last year, the best sign yet that China has found a way to develop advanced components despite US efforts to curb the country's homegrown silicon capabilities. This is based on findings from American semiconductor analyst firm …

  1. First Light

    "Close copy"

    TSMC needs to look closely at their staff, or former staff, to see how close a copy it was.

    1. Lordrobot

      Re: "Close copy"

      I don't think that is the point of the article. The point is that SMIC has achieved 7nm in the face all the naysayers that said it would take years to occur. It would appear that China moves faster than you think. And the chip design itself is irrelevant.

      Unless there is a Chinese patent, China can make whatever it wants but it can't export it. This effort appears to be a demo.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: "Close copy"

        Nobody said it would take them years to reach 7nm, only that without access to EUV technology their progress would be limited.

        TSMC was double and even quad patterning for some steps to make 7nm chips without EUV. When they were able to use EUV for the most demanding steps it was simpler and cheaper.

        SMIC is presumably doing the same thing, except they can't use EUV and make it cheaper. So their chips will be more expensive to make and take longer, and if they hope to progress further they will have to do even more extreme things like 5 or 6 patterning steps. That will be good enough for low volume chips where cost is less of a concern (bitcoin mining or military stuff) but won't be cost effective for mass market stuff like smartphone SoCs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Close copy"

          SMIC is presumably doing the same thing, except they can't use EUV and make it cheaper. So their chips will be more expensive to make and take longer,

          But how much impact does it have on the final part cost?

          Lets say for arguments sake, that Qualcomm sells an SOC for 20x what it costs TSMC to make the die.

          Then if it costs SMIC 2x as much to make the die, Huawei could only make a 19x margin on SOC's. They'll be totally out of business tomorrow!

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: "Close copy"

            That's not how the pricing works. A smartphone SoC made in the latest 5nm process costs about $50 from TSMC. Qualcomm may mark it up and sell it for $100 but there's no market for one that costs $1000 or even $200.

            1. Warm Braw

              Re: "Close copy"

              However, if your primary concern is military capability, price isn't necessarily the first consideration.

              Especially if the result is that others are more inclined to bend to your will.

              1. DS999 Silver badge

                Re: "Close copy"

                Sure for military applications that's fine, and that may be what this process is mostly intended for. If the chips cost them 2x more than if they were able to get them from TSMC, or perhaps even 10x more since yield will also be an issue, they won't care.

                I wonder if any chips made with this process will be exported so they can be compared to with TSMC's and Samsung's - since "7nm" is just a marketing term and not some sort of standard. The masks were already super complex, not only due to quad patterning but the optical aberrations due to trying to use 193nm light to make features accurate to a fraction of that. Some pretty intense computation (google 'computational lithography') was required, and the patterns on the mask looked nothing like the patterns they'd produce on the chip. At some point that house of cards has to collapse, but they may be able to follow it further than was necessary in the west.

                1. EnviableOne

                  Re: "Close copy"

                  what people are forgetting is that TSMC have several fabs on the Chinese mainland, namley shanghi and Nanjing

                  the CCP have eyes and ears in the systems.

                  1. adam 40 Silver badge

                    Re: "Close copy"

                    Yes but they have always kept the bleeding edge stuff in the Republic of China.

                    Back in the day, it was only 8" wafers allowed on the PRC side, 12" in RoC only.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Close copy"

        Exactly. But the prevailing mantra is "China Bad", so no one wants to admit they did well on this front. They'd rather claim they "stole" it without evidence to prove anything.

        Typical nonsense out of the Americans. Flag waving rah rah and not too much good sense about the fact they aren't the only ones with tech savvy on the planet. :(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Close copy"

          There's plenty of evidence that China engages in industrial espionage and trade secret theft, even evidence that it's state-sponsored. For example, there's the analyses of online ransomware and extortion groups' activity and tools, not to mention people being arrested after being caught red-handed.

          And even if you don't believe those sources you've just got to look at the "home-grown" Chinese military aircraft and reflect on how they are almost identical to US-developed designs. This isn't purely functional aspects either (aerodynamics, etc) - when Russia develops aircraft they are clearly distinct from any western design, but China somehow managed to design nearly identical aircraft as the US.

          1. orphic

            Re: "Close copy"

            Actually, they used to say the same thing about Russia! From Concordski, to claims of copying VSTOL designs and Russia's space shuttle.

          2. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: "Close copy"

            The reason why aircraft doing similar jobs looks roughly the same isn't due to espionage so much as engineers faced with the same problems come up with similar solutions. A closer examination of similar designs of, say, civilian aircraft show that things that might look the same on the surface are indeed quite different.

            Incidentally, if you've ever worked "at the bleeding edge" they you'll know that the real knowhow that goes into making something isn't the design, that's usually obvious for anyone who's in the field. Its the process technology, materials, production techniques and so on, that's important. Its also not that easy to copy -- its not like the pre-WW1 spy tales where the enemy secures the blueprint and all is known. Here things might get a bit murky in aerospace since Russia, for example, is well ahead of the game when it comes to composites and machining titanium. We in the west just don't seem to be able to get our heads around the fact that Johhny Foreigner can be as good, or better, than us. They've just got to be cheating! ( if they care)

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: "Close copy"

              >The reason why aircraft doing similar jobs looks roughly the same isn't due to espionage

              And the reason the Buran shuttle does a 90deg roll after take-off isn't that the Space shuttle does it because the Florida launch pad faces the wrong way because an Apollo era blast trench - it's for purely aerodynamic reasons the Russians invented

              1. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: "Close copy"

                I've seen these claims about Buran doing an unnecessary roll but I have never seen a source that verifies that it did, nor does the available launch footage show a roll maneuver to the degree the shuttle needed. A small roll to correct any difference from launchpad orientation to desired orbit azimuth will always be done with any rocket/shuttle, that's just basic orbital dynamics.

                Buran really wasn't a direct copy of the shuttle. For one it didn't have engines on the orbiter nor the external tank to go with that. It's thermal protection system was also entirely different (and arguably better than the fragile space shuttle tiles).

            2. gandalfcn Silver badge

              Re: "Close copy"

              Convergent evolution. Nature did it first.

            3. Shadowlight

              Re: "Close copy"

              <s>We in the west</s>Americans just don't seem to be able to get <s>our</s>their heads around the fact that Johhny Foreigner can be as good, or better, than <s>us</s>them. They've just got to be cheating!


          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Close copy"

            I've looked at Chinese military aircraft, and didn't find they're looking anything like US ones. Would you happen to have something more specific?

            Generally speaking: aircraft looking alike aren't necessarily identical, or even similar. For example, the latest generation of F/A18 fighters look quite like the first, just bigger, and yet the insides (and the performances!) are wholly different.

            1. Denarius

              Re: "Close copy"

              not looking hard, are you ? Same physics, similar solutions so similarity of shape is no proof of copying/spying. Arresting humans carrying security classified documents is evidence of probable espionage. Aside from this, aeronautical engineers may face something other purveyors of ideas (academics) dont. If a passenger plane fails due to bad design ideas, the engineers have legal consequences to face. Even Boing (sic) lately. So concepts that are known to work adequately tend to be emulated. So the Herc has remained roughly the prototype for every military non pure jet cargo for about 65 years. Under the skin there is big difference but tube and wind shape is constant.

              FWIW, I dont think it matters. Thucydides Trap is operating and no side sees that as a common threat. Build a bigger vege patch, learn basic survival skills and hide precious metals, like good steel and iron working tools.

          4. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

            Re: "Close copy"

            There's plenty of evidence that the USA does state sponsored industrial espionage too.

          5. Kabukiwookie

            Re: "Close copy"

            There's plenty of evidence that the US engages in industrial espionage.

            The US govt spying on Airbus on behest of Boeing for example.

            And it's not 'whataboutery'; it's the 'people in glass house' throwing stones.

          6. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: "Close copy"

            There's plenty of evidence that the USA engages in industrial espionage and trade secret theft, even evidence that it's state-sponsored.

        2. Snowy Silver badge

          Re: "Close copy"

          If they did not steal it they would be shouting from the rooftop how great they where.

          This could be one of the reasons why China has not officially submitted details to their exascale computer.

          1. Kabukiwookie

            Re: "Close copy"

            they would be shouting from the rooftop how great they where.

            You must be mistaking chinese with chest-thumping USians.

        3. abstract

          Re: "Close copy"

          The West did everything for 2 centuries to make sure the rest of world won't develop or only under their control. Technological progress exists on its own despite the West claiming people breath thanks to them. They actually stole most of the knowledge from the Islamic world. The reason they spend their time belittling the importance of Islam in the world is because the debt is far too high to be assumed: the culture of show-off owing so much to the culture of abnegation.

      3. tooltalk

        Re: "Close copy"

        And this article is very misleading in one important way. Joe Biden reversed Trump's blacklisting of Huawei and SMIC and granted over $100+B worth of equipment/licensing to China which, in turn, enabled SMIC to complete their 7nm.

        By Kate O’KeeffeFollow, WSJ

        Oct. 21, 2021 10:30 pm ET

        U.S. Issued $100 Billion in Export Licenses to Suppliers of Huawei, SMIC

        Commerce Department data shows that suppliers of the blacklisted Chinese tech companies maintained access to U.S. products including semiconductors

        WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Suppliers to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and China's top chipmaker SMIC got billions of dollars worth of licenses from November through April to sell them goods and technology despite their being on a U.S. trade blacklist, documents released by Congress showed on Thursday.

        China has no way to organically develop their own chip manufacturing equipment supply-chain on their own -- the same is also true for two chip giants Taiwan and South Korea who import over 95% from lithos from oversea.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Close copy"

          > Joe Biden reversed Trump's blacklisting of Huawei and SMIC


          > Commerce Department data shows that suppliers of the blacklisted Chinese tech companies maintained access to U.S. products including semiconductors

          You know what "maintained" means, right? It means the situation didn't change. These exceptions to the sanctions were already in place in the Trump era. Biden did not reverse anything here.

          > enabled SMIC to complete their 7nm.

          That's just speculation on your part. There is no evidence that the exceptions in any way could be used to improve chip-making technologies, especially when that was what the sanctions were intended to prevent.

          Just because I loaned Mark Zuckerberg my lawnmower once, does not mean that contributed to the creation of Facebook.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Close copy"

            Ewww, I hope you gave it a bit of a rinse afterwards.

          2. tooltalk

            Re: "Close copy"

            Sure wumao, Why do you make up stuff? Trump's defense blacklisting for SMIC started in 2020 and their exemption/permits aren't up for review/renewal for another 1-2 years, which was reduced to 4 from 6-8 years before under Trump's new BIS regulation. In another word, Biden's new approvals were continutatio of Obama-era or exemptioned or permits granted under Obama, most of which should have been denied.

            Second, SMIC were allowed to import $45+B worth of licensess/equipemtn, despite export control. Of 180+ goods/licenses approved for China, about 1/3 were classified as "highly sensitive." .

  2. Lordrobot

    Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

    Before we get into the banter of Murica's 7nm chips are better than China's 7nm chips, the fact is the USA doesn't FAB andy 7nm chips in Murica. They fab them in Taiwan, China.

    SMIC has a 14nm capacity. A double pass can make 7nm chips. These chips are for BITCOIN mining which is illegal in China. The chips consume some 3300 watts so that's a lot of Chinese solar panels to avoid detection. Nevertheless, it pretty much guarantees a global market for these chips and maybe include solar panels.

    Once again to recap the most salient argument over narrow gated chips is that only 5% of all semiconductor sales are narrow gated chips. China is focused on the wide gated chips that represent 95% of the global market. But as China is noted for its relentless march forward, SMIC now has 7nm chips which are in the narrow gated range. As always the Chinese development comes sooner than expected, is always then mocked for being not as good as other narrow gated Fab out of Taiwan. Then why all the FUSS?

    The Fuss simply proves the US and UK approach of blocking technology to China simply doesn't work. The US and UK have done everything to stop SMIC and Huawei and failed. What they have done is caused China to grind toward decoupling from the US and UK. China is the largest buyer of chips so when the largest buyer wants to dump you, that's not a good sign. And anyone who thinks their semiconductor products are indispensable is crazy. Aside from Fab, fabless designers such as Alibaba are creating extraordinary chips. The only missing link is FAB. And the biggest FAB company speaks Chinese. TSCM's largest client in Mainland China. The US in fact is a very small customer, the UK even smaller.

    ARM is not without competition. RISC-V has a much-reduced instruction set and several big advantages over ARM especially since it is open source.

    I can hardly wait for the grand celebration of the US 53 Billion in FAB subsidies. A FAB plant will take 5 years to open. In five years, China will likely have EUV lithography or something better. Let's remember the loudest voice in those screaming for Gov handouts is INTEL a company that has had 80 billion in stock buybacks for nothing, and failed at both 5G and failed at 10 nm gates... but somehow all that is forgotten and INTEL is going to lead the charge.

    But, and I have asked this many times with no answers... Why would any fabless designer bring their proprietary designs to INTEL for FAB? IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! What is going to happen is you will lose 95% of the wide gated market and likely 50% of the narrow gated market. No US FAB or US Chips will end up in Chinese smartphones as this plays out.

    You are not going to beat CHINA... you couldn't beat Vietnam or even Afghanistan or ISIS or the Taliban or the North Koreans. You talk big about Iran but you won't go near them. And while you were sleeping Turkey has become a modern tech warfare powerhouse.

    Even Egypt and Israel found that if they traded with each other they could find mutual benefit. But you have this contingent of paranoid nitwits in both the UK and the US, some that post here but mostly just downvote because their posts get destroyed.

    Technology is occupied by mostly intelligent people, Politicians are paranoid cornpone southern fried idiots and Union shills. Wouldn't it be amusing if INTEL's gov sponsored FAB plant in OHIO goes UNION? But they could build chips for GM. Yup... look for the Union Label and sell short.

    1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

      Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

      -> And anyone who thinks their semiconductor products are indispensable is crazy.

      This is true, and the point is lost on those in favour of trade barriers and sanctions. In a nutshell, if something can be built it can be built. It doesn't matter if that thing is a nut and bolt or a microchip. Knowing something can be built is already half the battle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

        Sanctions only really work if you also expel or kill all foreign nationals, especially any Chinese. These types of policies are typically extremely unpopular (and not only with the Chinese) and unlikely to be put into practice. Otherwise

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

          > Sanctions only really work if you also expel or kill all foreign nationals,

          lolno. Industrial espionage happens just as often by local citizens as it does by foreign nationals. Money is a hell of a drug.

          And the sanctions against Russia seems to be biting hard, and nobody seems to be expelling Russian civilians just for being Russian.

    2. CheesyTheClown

      Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

      I enjoyed your perspective even if I consider your writing style to be as annoying as my own.

      Intel said for quite some time that 10nm from Intel could achieve the same density as 7nm from TSMC which was mostly true as Intel and TSMC measured differently. Of course there were exceptions, but overall, Intel and TSMC evolved their processes greatly over time and once the limits of TSMC 7 and Intel 10 were reached, they both moved a notch down in size.

      Intel 4 should be able to employ 7nm fabrication to match the density and power foot print of 4nm from TSMC or Samsung.

      I haven’t found details on SMIC’s 7nm node yet, but I would expect they have to work on the following

      - Transistor size

      - trace width

      - insulator width

      - yield

      - more

      I would suspect that SMIC has nailed the transistor size issue. But yield will probably be a beast for them at this point.

      What I think is really interesting about this that SMIC had to work around a LOT of sourcing issues. Everyone has made a lot of noise over the EUV tech, but in truth, with enough money and engineers, EUV is not actually a mystery. The patent documents cover it it a lot of detail and they just had to figure out how to do it themselves. I would be surprised if it was actually difficult to do once China decided to ignore patent rights.

      The big dog was wafer production. It takes an incredible team of people to produce crystal of such purity. It is also really easy to hide the process of purification, growth, slicing and polishing. 7nm is pretty far from subatomic, still 1-2 orders of magnitude from it. But crystal production for semiconductors probably require at least a 85% crystal accuracy (speculating from basic chemistry knowledge) to gate accurately. Layering must also be extremely difficult since layers are very likely less than 30nm high. (7nm trace, 15 degree angle of exposure, 120 picometer photon [estimation], 350nm wavelength [EUV estimation]).

      This would mean that NMOS or PMOS at this scale would require some truly insanely accurate robotics and so ridiculously accurate centrifuges for layer application.

      I think what many people didn’t recognize is that once something has been accomplished by anyone anywhere, whether through patents or marketing material, or other sources… reproduction of that technology is much much much easier. All that keeps people from copying it is patents and good faith. When it became public knowledge that diagonal EUV lithography did in fact successfully etch 7nm wafers… the financial risk associated with reproducing that technology was mitigated greatly. You really would only need a team of chemists, physicists and precision engineers to do it again.

      What I think should also be considered is that documents published regarding sub-nanometer fabrication allows China as a whole to invest in skipping multiple generations and even beating their competitors to the goal. No one says China HAS to move ton5nm or 3nm first. They can be happy with 7nm and focus entirely on 500pm instead.

      That of course raises the next issue which is that the really difficult stuff to reproduce is the software.

      If China is blocked from Mentor Graphics and other synthesis tools, they will be forced to stick with versions licensed before the embargo. They can’t just call Mentor and say “I need a patch for our proprietary fab process”. They will have to produce their now synthesizers, physical and logical simulators. That actually takes a lot of time. There is a lot of graph theory for rule constrained synthesis. Also, field theory, especially when concerning quantum effects which is necessary at such low gate sizes takes teams of brilliant people years to achieve.

    3. Tams

      Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

      Taiwan, Taiwan.

      You Pooh bear shill.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

        Yep. Only the PRC shills keep pushing Taiwan is part of China. In reality, separate governments, millitary, laws, currency, passports, and even dialects - TW Mandarin is as different from PRC Mandarin as American and British English. They have been separate for over a hundred years now, though in Chinese terms that's just yesterday. At least it's a handy way to spot the wumao posters...

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

          On one side you have Taiwan dubbing mainland China as "separatist" provinces, while mainland China (the real China) stating that Taiwan is a separatist province.

          And don't expect to see it changing in the near future...

          So yes, it is "Taiwan, China".

          The only thing to decide is if it is "Republic of China" or "People's Republic of China".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

          Because it is the "Republic of China", but keep in mind that the main land is the "People's Republic of China" and they are both 2 separate governments. Not so long ago the RoC believed that they rule the whole of China (mainland + Taiwan), and the PRC still believe that they rule the whole of China. Some people in TW still believe that they should rule the whole of China. Now if you are talking about the indigenous people of Taiwan then you need to read up on the "Republic of Formosa". My friends who identify as indigenous Taiwanese vocally hate both the mainland and the TW government and would like to have their country back.

    4. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

      "In five years, China will likely have EUV lithography or something better."

      You weren't doing well before, but you totally lost me there. I know the level of tech and institutional knowledge required for EUV up close and China isn't even close to being 5 years away from being able to do EUV. They're still barely hanging on to a 5 to 10 year gap on DUV litho because they lack domestic production of the required high quality lens stacks for anything better, production of EUV multi-layer mirrors of the required spec is currently beyond their capabilities. No doubt if enough resources are poured in they can get close or competitive in DUV in relatively short time (probably about 5 years, but they currently aren't investing afaik) but no amount of money and resources is going to get them to the level of producing EUV optics in 5 years. And that is besides the motion control, ultra clean vacuum, production engineering, etc that goes into these systems.

      I'm well aware the Chinese (PRC) as a people aren't stupid and they can do amazing things. But currently they don't have the knowledge and tech to rival the likes of ASML and TSMC at peer level.

    5. llaryllama

      Re: Another shoe of the US Clyddsdale falls.

      I was with you up until the "Taiwan, China" crap.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    US and China can remain frenemies as long as the balance of the current stalemate lasts. If SMIC and the other mainland fabs can play catchup then China not only has more lee-way to act, it has incentive to act as it would benefit from destroying it's competition. The fact that a non-trivial part of the Chinese economy is dependent on Taiwanese industry is both a reason China can't let go of, but also can't invade the island nation.

    So the consequences of their fabs playing catch-up may be dire indeed. The indispensable Taiwanese industry is the main reason China can't carpet bomb them into submission. That becomes more a attractive prospect if they are just the competition.

    That said, miner ASICs are a pretty shady corner of the Chinese market, one that doesn't appear to have the broad or tacit support of the government. I'd try to keep a close eye where other parts start showing up, as it's possible black market ASICs were fabbed using bits from multiple suppliers and packaged on the 3rd shift at one of the properly equipped SMIC plants. Similar things were happening to Cisco gear back in the day.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Chess.

      Competing with China is hard to do in terms of technology. Do you sell them everything they want or refuse and force them to develop their own? Either way, they will end up out competing you one way or the other.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chess. (says it all)

      The US was raised on Chess with specific goals for specific situations. The Chinese were raised on Go where understanding and responding to fluid overall situations is the key to the game.

      The more we sanction them, the more they find ways around us.

      China has the brainpower, the manufacturing, and the money and the ruling party knows what they want to do with it.

      The US also has the brainpower, manufacturing (although much less these days), and money but where those are applied is up to individual companies. And US political system is broken.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Chess. (says it all)

        Perhaps even more importantly the US economic system has drifted far from capitalism, instead relying on pumping liquidity every time the market catches a chill. Trillion in paper wealth were created between 2018/1 and 2022/1 as the markets nearly doubled in value, but very little of that went into investing in long term plant. Which makes sense when keeping the money liquid is the best way to catch the next bubble wave.

        1. Kabukiwookie

          Re: Chess. (says it all)

          This is late stage laissez faire capitalism.

          Capitalism can only work if the market is highly regulated.

          Adam Smith, actually mentions in Wealth if Nations that certains services should not be privatised and mentions that monopolies, as are rampant in the US, are the death of the free market.

          The so-called capitalists in the US only take parts of his writings that are convenient to them and ignoring the parts that stop them from making money, but which will eventually break the system.

      2. orphic

        Re: Chess. (says it all)

        The US doesn't play chess it plays poker!

        1. llaryllama

          Re: Chess. (says it all)

          And they just beat us all with that hand of five kings.

      3. Zolko Silver badge

        Re: Chess. (says it all)

        The US was raised on Chess (...) The Chinese were raised on Go

        is chess really so popular for the US kids ? I'd have said that Russia is raised in chess, and US is raised on baseball. Or Hollywood.

        1. Irony Deficient

          is chess really so popular for the US kids ?

          It likely depends upon the particular US kid. Back in the Neolithic era, it was interesting for me and for two brothers who lived nearby, but not for my siblings or (as far as I knew) any other kid in our neighborhood.

    3. tooltalk

      Re: Chess.

      except that China has no leeway. China, Taiwan or South Korea for that matter has no chip manufacturing equipment supply-chain of their own -- they must import almost everything from the US, Japan, or EU. When Trump's adminsitration said they could kill off China's burgeoning chip industry by flipping a switch, they weren't exactly kidding ... until Biden came along.

      Trump killed off China's memory business a few years back; SMIC's progression towards 7nm was all, but stalled. Then came Biden. He quickly reversed Trump's blacklisting of Huawei and SMIC and granted $100+B worth of IP/equipment sales to China, which in turn enabled SMIC to complete their 7nm. SMIC already poached away hundreds of ex-TSMC top engineers, including Liang Mong Sang, who is now a co-CEO of SMIC, so all they needed was Biden's blessing. And blessing SMIC got.

      WASHINGTON, Oct 21, 2021 (Reuters) - Suppliers to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and China's top chipmaker SMIC got billions of dollars worth of licenses from November through April to sell them goods and technology despite their being on a U.S. trade blacklist, documents released by Congress showed on Thursday.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Chess.

        Biden didn't "reverse" anything. He just dithered, which in practice turned out to be not very different from Trump's vacillating.

        Decent summary here.

        Biden is decent, but not smart. Trump is smart, but also the biggest crook in America. Of the two I would still take Biden, but I'd want a better choice.

  4. LazLong

    Sexual Stealing

    Send enough hot spies to tempt nerdy engineers and you're bound to get what you need.

    1. LogicGate Silver badge

      Re: Sexual Stealing


  5. werdsmith Silver badge

    When South Africa was under their apartheid system the world including UK boycotted and put sanctions on them, refused to let them have military equipment.

    When the British army needed a new attack helicopter, tenders were invited because UK had lost the capability to manufacture them. South African Denel were ready "hey how about our Rooivak?".

    Denying China access to tech will just mean that they will just take the longer road to developing their own and there's no reason that they can't do it better.

  6. man_iii

    Chess is from India

    You know India is buying Dino Juice from Russia using Chinese RMB?

    Also the CCP is notorious for claiming and demoing things that are patently false.

    So take it with a pinch of salt and a pound of skepticism if the CCP says anything through any of its domestic and foreign orifices.

  7. Teejay

    Spying and bribery

    Let us never, ever forget that up to this point in time basically all of China's 'success story' is based on spying and bribery.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Teejay - Re: Spying and bribery

      Yeah, but it's better than using slavery.

      1. Trigun

        Re: @Teejay - Spying and bribery

        Or "re-education" camps.... Oh wait.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Re: @Teejay - Spying and bribery

          or forced labor for inmates?

          1. Trigun

            Re: @Teejay - Spying and bribery

            Or organ "donations" from prisoners


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Teejay - Spying and bribery

        They do that too. Just ask the Uyghurs.

        Meanwhile, you and your ilk would prefer to self-flagellate over a practice that ended literally hundreds of years ago in the West. That's precisely why China's winning!

    2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Spying and bribery

      Let us never, ever forget China has the longest running continuous civilization.

      That's regardless of whether you think it is good, bad, or indifferent.

  8. martinusher Silver badge

    Pretty much on schedule

    The Chinese said a year ago that they expected a 7nm process to be on stream Q3 of this year. I really don't know what the fuss is about.

    I wouldn't be surprised if they have home-grown DUV and EUV machines in the works, either. "But they violate such and such's patents!" you'll say. But then we are at war with this country -- admittedly only economic war at the moment -- so why would you expect them to play our game? The Chinese were doing just that, trying to be Good Global Citizens, and we turned around and attacked (sanctioned) them. It wasn't because of vague 'security issues' -- that's for we, the rubes -- but they were proving too competitive and in this day and age its cheaper and easier to invest in lawmakers than R&D and production staff. The Chinese obviously got too big for their boots and we felt we had to put them in their place -- but I fear that's us that's eventually going to be taught a rather hard lesson.

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: Pretty much on schedule

      I have read about them trying to get EUV machines on their own, and how they had issues.

      As for respecting patents, as we have blocked them from commerce, I would be surprised if they respected them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pretty much on schedule

      > It wasn't because of vague 'security issues' -- that's for we, the rubes

      That's precisely what irritates me.

      Yes, I'm bothered about our governments acting unfairly to keep an economic edge on some other part of the world.

      But I'm even more bothered about our governments lying to the public about why they take a certain course of action.

  9. bofh1961

    No honour among thieves

    All property is theft! I doubt very much that the West's spies would hesitate to steal intellectual property, infringe patents and so on... even from each other. No corporation hesitates to steal IP either if they think they can get away with it. The Chinese may or may not be particularly good at it but the practice is universal.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > has been trying to slow down China's ability to manufacture advanced chips over national securityeconomic concerns.

  11. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Parallel development

    Once something has been proven to be possible, preventing "competitors" from obtaining the technology means they have to work out their own way of doing it

    Odds are pretty good that they'll find a BETTER way of doing it - the first iteration of something is seldom the best one

    leaking "poisoned" data can cause your competitors to waste huge amounts of time and effort trying to replicate your work

    (this was done when it was realised that the Soviets were getting hold of Concorde data, so the wing leading edge data was deliberately altered in the hope they'd pick it up. The result was a hopelessly compromised Tu144 which required heavy canards for low speed flight)

    1. IJD

      Re: Parallel development

      The TU144 wing bore no resemblance to the Concorde wing except that it was superficially a delta -- but with a completely different shape and hugely inferior performance, which the canards tried (not very successfully) to fix. Any serious Russian attempt to use spying to copy Concorde's wing would have looked much more similar in shape with better performance than the TU144.

      The same applied to the engines and especially their intakes, which was why Concorde could cruise without reheat and the TU144 couldn't -- hence the appalling noise levels inside, and terrible range.

  12. PhilipN Silver badge


    "over national security concerns"


    Uncle Sam perceives itself as King of the S**t Heap and will do anything to keep it that way. Simple.

  13. DerekCurrie

    Pointless Question:

    Q: Does China: Criminal Nation, rip off technology?

    A: Every day!

    A very short list: What China hasn't ripped off.

    Such is the nature of 'communism' that creativity, invention and innovation incentives are killed and stealing from the non-'communist' nations is required. The end game of course is that the creative nations get sick of being ripped off, resulting in world stagnation. That's bad.

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