Despite sanctions, China's semiconductor industry exceeds expectations.

Despite sanctions, China’s semiconductor industry exceeds expectations.

China Semiconductor Industry Surpasses Expectations in 2023

China semiconductor industry experienced remarkable growth in 2023, defying expectations and achieving impressive results amidst global challenges. According to data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s integrated circuit (IC) output surged by 6.9%, reaching a record 351.4 billion ICs, up from 324.2 billion in 2022. This unexpected success highlights the industry’s resilience and adaptability in navigating a complex landscape.

Resilient Response to Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery

One of the key factors contributing to this growth was China’s resilient response to post-pandemic economic recovery. Despite initial concerns, the semiconductor sector demonstrated remarkable strength, adapting to evolving market dynamics. The 6.9% increase in IC output underscores the industry’s ability to weather challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Challenges Faced by Leading Foundries

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), China’s leading foundry, faced challenges in 2023, reporting a 24% decline in wafer shipments and a drop in capacity utilization to 74%. This decline was primarily attributed to reduced demand from key sectors such as smartphones and automobiles. Hua Hong Semiconductor, the second-largest foundry in China, also experienced a temporary setback with a 0.79% year-on-year drop in revenue and a dip in capacity utilization in the third quarter.

Resilience and Adaptability in the Face of Adversity

Despite these specific challenges, China semiconductor industry demonstrated resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity. Analysts predict a positive trajectory for the industry, with signs of recovery expected in the second quarter of 2024. The Semiconductor foundry capacity utilization rates, which experienced downward pressure, are anticipated to rebound, bringing the industry back to a healthier equilibrium.

Trade Statistics and Global Tensions

Trade statistics for 2023 revealed mixed results, with China exporting 267.8 billion ICs worth US$135.9 billion, slightly lower in volume but demonstrating robust performance. Import figures, while lower in volume and value, did not significantly hinder the overall growth momentum of the industry.

Global tensions, particularly between the US and China, posed challenges, with export bans and trade controls on certain semiconductor types affecting China’s access to advanced technologies. However, the industry took proactive measures and focused on self-sufficiency to mitigate potential disruptions. China’s increased semiconductor equipment imports, including a 93% surge in chip-making equipment imports in Q3 2023, reflected the nation’s commitment to reducing dependence on external sources. Initiatives like “Made in China 2025,” tax exemptions, and substantial investments underscored China’s dedication to achieving semiconductor self-sufficiency.

Positive Outlook for the Future

China semiconductor industry not only met but exceeded expectations in 2023, showcasing robust growth and resilience in the face of global challenges. As the industry anticipates further recovery in 2024, the narrative shifts towards a positive outlook, emphasizing the sector’s ability to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

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