back to article China the largest buyer of chipmaking machines as sales hit an all-time high

Global sales of semiconductor fab equipment grew by 5 percent during 2022 to hit an all-time high, with China the largest buyer despite a fall in its investment amid the standoff with the US over access to chips and other technology. The figures come from SEMI, the industry body for electronics manufacturing and supply chain, …

  1. CheesyTheClown

    “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

    This is a misunderstanding which seems to make a lot of people confused.

    You don’t actually need more advanced nodes for nearly anything which the US is attempting to curtail.

    Advanced nodes increase density which is a non-issue unless portability is the need

    They also decrease power consumption which is also a non-issue if power is available. Thanks to China’s solar, battery and wind initiatives, total non-issue

    They also decrease heat radiation. No problem if you can remove the heat. There are of course many profitable ways to consume the heat from data centers. And China does have ways to do that.

    They can also increase clock rates which can be easily compensated for by simply adding more chips.

    There is the issue of high frequency communication which is a limiting factor due to things like quantum tunneling. I won’t make this a quantum physics or regulation theory lesson, but the only way to deal with this is to have more parallel channels of serial communication. A better solution is to write better code which doesn’t need so much bandwidth. Use binary data rather than JSON for example.

    The last and toughest issue is latency. Sometime you just need to send data from n less time. This is generally addressed with higher frequency busses. There are almost no places in high performance computing and AI where you genuinely need better latency. We use it when it’s available, but if you consider most super computers are running like slugs because scientists tend to write their code in Python, R or Matlab, this isn’t really the issue. Many HPC applications could run on laptops with a decent video card if they were coded properly.

    The only thing these advanced fabrication technologies are really needed for is things like 5G. And this is a huge problem because China’s 5G solution is much cheaper and quite a bit better than their competitors. Even now, for example Nokia is struggling to deliver millimeter wave or SA. Two features Huawei could deliver on day one of 5G and also the two most interesting features of 5G. If the US hadn’t bullied everyone to avoid Huawei RANs, the whole western would would be shipping crates full of US treasury notes to China never to be seen again.

    Overall, these semiconductor fabrication equipment sanctions have very little impact on China except that they are being forced to up their game will eventually catch up with the west and leave them perfectly positioned to compete aggressively against western companies.

    The ship has sailed. There is no going back. If all the sanctions were lifted today, China would work just as hard to become the world leader in semiconductor technology. What Trump and Biden have accomplished is to make it so China might simply choose to withhold advanced Chinese tech from the US and their friends.

    The good news is, most of the people who have initiated this inevitable end more than likely, due to old age won’t be around to see the world when the US is pan handling on the streets of Beijing begging for bread. But I’m sure they’ll go down in the history books as the presidents who forced China’s hand.

    1. Mr Finance

      Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

      Right, sure, Xi was totally our friend before we totally misunderstood all his strangely unfriendly actions and abhorent ideology. You've really convinced me this is all our fault and we should bend over again and let Xi go back to having his way without fighting back at all. He's ever so friendly if you just do everything he wants.

      There are for sure a lot of smart scientists and engineers in China, and it is far from sure corruption will decay their capabilities even as quickly as the couple of decades it took in soviet russia. But as you say in China, a fish rots from the head.

      1. Zolko Silver badge

        Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

        You didn't understand what CheesyTheClown meant. I don't know who said that it's better to keep one's mouth shut and risking to pass for an idiot, rather than opening it and not leaving any doubt about that.

    2. Justthefacts Silver badge

      Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

      If by “advanced nodes”, you mean 3nm vs 7nm, then yes you are correct in your assessment. But smaller line width also brings massive price advantage, and bigger than is currently obvious. It’s certainly essential for DRAM. You *could* theoretically make DRAM a few nodes behind leading edge, but the price competitiveness would be unthinkable. But also:

      The world has got used to making microntrollers on 28nm+, or even 45nm+, for a couple simple reasons….both of which are *going away*. First off, 45nm uses very old fabs and equipment whose capex has been fully amortised. It isn’t intrinsically cheap, but it is now, because otherwise it all gets thrown on the scrap heap. But increasingly the ratio of volume of microcontrollers to leading-edge increases we are moving to a world where we use loads more microcontrollers than

      1. Zolko Silver badge

        Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

        An important reason for large transistor nodes are high energy particles, and that problem tends to get bigger the higher-up in the atmosphere the chip is, and the longer it has to last. So, typically military applications. Therefore, the US – tentative – embargo on small nodes for China won't have any effect on military capability. It's probably designed to keep the 5-eyes advantage in spying on everybody in the world.

    3. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

      The 50cents are here again.

      You forgot to mention China's MASSIVE coal plants and coal mines causing MASSIVE amounts of pollution yet some people have been fooled into believing China is at the forefront of green energy. Far from it.

      We won't fall for or listen to your wumao bullshit.

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

        The wumao's downvoting in force.

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: “Advanced technologies” aren’t always needed

        What does China's massive pollution problem have to do with ANYTHING Cheezytheclown said? He said they have massive amounts of power available, which they do, because they don't care if a load of poor people living around a coal power station die an early and horrible death.

        The basis of his story is entirely correct. The majority of semicon production isn't happening at nodes where the latest and greatest is required. EUV is basically only relevant for the very highest end CPUs and GPUs (and some other specialized chips that benefit from lower power and thermal). High end immersion systems are only relevant for the latest and greatest in memory (DRAM and such). Everything else is still happening or can be done on systems China is still allowed to buy. These trade blockades aren't going to hamper China all that much. They are pointless symbolism. But nobody dares to take an actual stand against China because we've outsourced way too much to there to be able to risk China recirpocating on things like resistors (nearly 100% coming from China), capacitors (nearly 100% coming from China) and all sorts of other passives and active components that we no longer make in the western world. They've got us by the balls and they know it.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Tomorrows Bounties Today .... with Deadly Silent AI Missions Delivering Supply

    And that doesn't even begin to address and reveal the opportunities for leading entities whenever current systems processing have no idea at all regarding the number of applications for AI ProgramMING stored and fully ready for processor actualisation ..... augmented virtual realisation .... which computer and communications device manufacturers have awaiting for a'knocking on their doors for prime hosting and premium exclusive streaming of novel stealthy projects/disruptive creative campaigns ...... which you might like to ask of your leaders ....... Is it, and IT and AI, more likely to be an Advanced IntelAIgent Exotic Erotic Eastern based Confection or a Wild Wacky Western spun Delight, for it surely cannot initially be both whenever one so clearly positions itself in wilful and woeful opposition of, rather than positive competition with the other ‽ .

    That's the Future Almighty Holy Grail Prize for Worthy Competitive Victor Winning. I Kid U Not for there you see it ..... it is written, and thus made easy for you to follow or vaingloriously deny and ignore and thus be rendered as a Godsend and heavenly sent and useless in both opposition and competition ‽ .

  3. Tron Silver badge

    To supplement what CheesyTheClown said...

    I think we are going to see less investment in 'smaller' in the future and a lot more work on dynamic reprogrammability in soft CPUS and more use of clustering.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: To supplement what CheesyTheClown said...

      Yes, Tron, that is the Greater IntelAIgent Game Changer which IT and AI Programmers are leading and rewarding themselves with the production and future direction of imaginative universally acceptable narratives/sublime instruction sets.

      And Status Quo SCADA Systems Administrators are powerless against it with zero leverage for command and control.

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