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Domestic tech firms step up efforts on chip production

By Shi Jing in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-12 10:52

In response to the country's increasing stress on internet and information security, domestic companies have sped up their research and development of independently produced and controllable chips.

Shanghai Zhaoxin Semiconductor Co Ltd released its independently developed and produced general-purpose central processing unit KX-5000 at the end of December 2017. It is the first domestically produced CPU supporting dual-channel DDR 4 memory, which has been widely adopted by the world's leading manufacturers such as Intel and ADM for their new products this year.

The company says the KX-5000 series octuple-core processor has a similar performance to that of Intel's Core i3-6100 processor.

Founded in 2013, Zhaoxin began mass production in 2016. Last year, as many as 30,000 Zhaoxin chips were sold and the goal for 2018 is a maximum 200,000 chips. At present, local government departments and a number of domestic companies in Shanghai have purchased computers installed with Zhaoxin chips. The large office computer market in China is the long-term target for Zhaoxin, according to the company's Chairman Ye Jun.

Zhaoxin is the first and only Chinese company that has grasped the three key technologies in chip production-CPU, graphics processing unit and chipset.

Ye said such technologies are of great importance in terms of China's information security and industrial security. It is especially imminent since the industry leader Intel has been reported at the beginning of this year to have two major bugs that might allow sensitive data such as passwords to be stolen, he said.

Ye also stressed that less reliance on imported chips will secure the production of Chinese manufacturing companies. Shenzhen-based telecom company ZTE halted trading in early March last year because the central government of the United States banned it from importing US chips. Consequently, its production was dramatically affected.

According to Wei Shaojun, professor of Institute of Microelectronics at Tsinghua University, the value of imported integrated circuit products hit a record high in China last year to reach $250 billion. Integrated circuits have become the product with the highest import value in the country, overtaking crude oil. Among the $250 billion, the majority has been spent on CPUs.

Meanwhile, the world's CPU market has been dominated by the two US giants-Intel and AMD-with Intel taking up the majority 86 percent and AMD accounting for 13 percent, according to market consultancy Mercury Research.

"Our goal is to become the world's third-largest CPU manufacturer," Ye said. "We have already made the first moves, which is like making the first crack on an iron plate."

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