Nation in big drive for core tech in key fields

By MA SI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-03-20 07:44
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Students watch a humanoid robot performing at the playground of Kuche County Second High School, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Feb 21. [PHOTO by YUAN HUANHUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Stress on R&D, funding, new laws, policies and colleges defines efforts for edge in chips

Shan Zenghai, chief engineer of Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group, had barely begun his speech when he was recognized by President Xi Jinping, who sat face to face with him at a group deliberation during the annual session of China's national legislature earlier this month.

Xi remembered Shan from a televised interview with deputies to the 14th National People's Congress earlier that day. During the interview, Shan recounted how domestically made heavy machinery has gained presence at home and abroad over the years.

At the deliberation with deputies from the delegation of Jiangsu province, Shan delivered more good news to Xi.

"The 220-(metric) ton all-terrain crane, the model you rode in 2017 during your inspection tour of XCMG, can now be 100 percent domestically produced as compared to 71 percent in the past," Shan told Xi.

"What about the chips in the cranes? Are they also homegrown?" Xi inquired.

Shan's was an affirmative reply.

XCMG's progress on the chips front exemplifies China's efforts to achieve proficiency in the sector that has become strategically important in terms of national security. China's growing capabilities in chipmaking, experts said, are laying a strong foundation for the country's sprawling digital economy.

The latest Government Work Report, revealed during the two sessions, or the top legislative and political advisory meetings, stated that key priorities this year include pooling of quality resources and concerted efforts to achieve breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields.

Jin Zhuanglong, minister of industry and information technology, the nation's top industry regulator, said, "Persistent efforts are needed to tackle problems in crucial technologies."

One of the ministry's top priorities during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period is to advance the modernization of industrial chains and encourage companies to develop core technologies, such as high-end semiconductor equipment.

Reflecting the strong resolve is the significant rise in the number of senior executives and academicians involved in the semiconductor sector who are among this year's deputies to the NPC and national political advisers.

For instance, Zhang Suxin, chairman of chipmaker Huahong Group, was elected a deputy to the NPC for the first time. Chen Tianshi, chairman of Cambricon Technology, a Chinese AI chip company, was also elected a national political adviser for the first time.

Other newly elected chip-related national legislators include Li Shushen, a renowned semiconductor expert and president of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Fu Zhiwei, chairman of Xuzhou B&C Chemical Co Ltd, a domestic company specializing in photoresist, a photosensitive material crucial for chipmaking.

They have all called for more efforts to develop the strategically important sector, including drafting a chip law to pursue breakthroughs.

Xie Shanghua, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top political advisory body, said it is necessary to prioritize the development of chips as part of the national security strategy.

In her proposal to the two sessions, Xie said the NPC should take the lead in formulating a chip law, among other measures, to ensure the sustainable, healthy and high-quality development of the semiconductor sector over the medium to long term.

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