More than half of the memory semiconductors China imported last year were supplied from South Korea. Despite the Chinese government’s efforts to nurture its semiconductor industry, large imports from South Korea are likely to continue for a while in view of both countries’ technical gap.
Last year, China’s memory semiconductor imports totaled US$88.617 billion, up 38.8% from a year earlier. Those from South Korea accounted for 52.3% of the total with a year-on-year increase of 51.3%. The ratio had been 48.2% in the previous year. Those from Taiwan and Japan represented 22.2% and 6.5%, respectively. In the first quarter of this year, the imports added up to US$14.672 billion, up 75.4% from a year ago.
China relies on imports heavily due to Chinese semiconductor manufacturers’ lack of advanced technology. For example, JHICC, one of the biggest DRAM manufacturers in China, has 22-nm technology, but Samsung Electronics used it from 2011 to 2015. When it comes to Tsinghua Unigroup’s flagship product 32-layer MLC, Samsung Electronics started mass production four years ago.
“These days, memory semiconductors for use in smartphones, data centers, and so on are evolving at a fast pace, but Chinese companies have yet to catch up with the pace,” said an industry source.