In the third quarter of 2023, the import of chip-making equipment by China surged by 93% compared to the same period last year, reaching a total value of RMB 63.4 billion ($8.75 billion), according to data from China’s customs authorities, as reported by Japanese media outlet Nikkei. In terms of product categories, the import of lithography equipment, a key part of the chip-making process, skyrocketed nearly fourfold.
Why it matters: The US began attempts to control the export of advanced chip-making equipment to China last October, with Japan and the Netherlands following suit this year, but these new figures show the issues with enforcing such controls rapidly. As the lead time for chip-making equipment from order placement to delivery is between six months to one year, many Chinese manufacturers had already placed a large number of orders for chip-making equipment from the latter two countries last year, likely in anticipation of a ban.
Details: Although the Netherlands has implemented policies restricting the export of advanced semiconductor equipment to China, imports of semiconductor equipment by China from the country in the third quarter nevertheless increased rapidly.
- According to data presented by Nikkei, the US accounted for only 9% of semiconductor equipment imported into China in the third quarter, significantly lower than its 17% share during the same period in 2021. Japan’s share also decreased from 32% to 25%, while the Netherlands saw an increase from around 15% to 30%.
- The data from China’s customs authorities reveals that the import value from the Netherlands skyrocketed by over six times in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, rising to 2.44 billion euros. A significant portion of this increase is attributed to lithography machines produced by Dutch market leader ASML. Imports of these machines from Japan grew by approximately 40%, while lithography equipment imports from the US increased by 20%.
- Compared with the second quarter of 2023, ASML’s sales revenue from China doubled from 24% to 46% of the firm’s total in the third quarter, amounting to 2.44 billion euros, according to the company’s financial report. In the first quarter of this year, ASML’s proportion of sales revenue generated by China was only 8%.
Context: According to the Netherlands’ new regulations on semiconductor exports, ASML’s lithography systems require an export license from the Dutch government for shipment. However, a statement from ASML indicated that the company believes its existing licenses still allow it to continue delivering lithography machines to China until the end of 2023, despite the export restrictions taking effect in September.
- ASML dominates the lithography market with an 82.9% market share followed by Canon and Nikon. It holds a market share that is over eight times greater than second-place Canon.