China produced a scant 5.9% of semiconductors it used in 2020, according to a report published Thursday, indicating significant reliance on foreign technology as the country pushes for independence on chips.

Why it matters: China, the world’s largest semiconductor market, is determined to increase domestic production of chips, and plans to make 70% of chips it uses by 2025.

Details: China’s integrated circuit (IC) market increased 9% to $143.4 billion in 2020 compared with a year earlier, according to a Thursday report by market research firm IC Insights. China-headquartered firms, however, only made $8.3 billion worth of ICs sold in the country in the same year, the report said.

  • Around 15.9% of ICs sold in China in 2020 were made locally, but most of them were made by foreign companies with wafer fabrication plants in the country, such as Taiwan Semiconductors Manufacturing Company, SK Hynix, and Samsung. Together, such firms made around 10% of chips sold in China last year.
  • IC Insights estimated in the report that 60% of semiconductors produced in China were components for exported products. The country is home to some of the largest smartphone makers in the world, including Xiaomi, Huawei, and Oppo.
  • Programmable logic devices, which are used to store the logic pattern integrated onto chips during programming, was the largest segment of China’s IC market in 2020, accounting for 26% of total wafers sold.
  • Strong sales of smartphones and other computing systems during the pandemic drove growth in microprocessors, which was the second-largest IC product segment in China last year, according to IC Insights. The category grew 12% last year to $32.7 billion.

Context: In December, the US added China’s largest chipmaker, Shanghai-based Semiconductors Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), to an “Entity List” that effectively cut the company off from American technology.

  • Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, has been been plagued by US sanctions. The company has now essentially been cut off a supply of advanced semiconductors.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. He writes a monthly newsletter tracking...