The expression of "card neck" is very graphic, borrowed into the core technology, it shows that this technology is very critical, in a project or a product, the importance of "card neck" technology is self-evident. Our commonly used computer core chips, high-end mobile phone core chips, storage devices, display driver chips in video systems, digital signal processing equipment chips, and programmable logic device core chips, etc., are high-end chips that China cannot make on its own, almost completely dependent on imports, in these products, China's self-produced chips in the global market share is not even 1%, or even most of them are less than 0.5%.
In such a situation, high-end chips have naturally become a "card neck" problem, because of great demand and extremely low self-supply, so the United States sanctions Huawei, the killer is the chip. Recently, there was such a topic on the US version of the Zhihu Forum that caused heated discussion among netizens from all over the world: "The United States put pressure on the Netherlands to prevent the Dutch ASML company from selling EUV equipment to SMIC, which ultimately affected China's technology dream." How long can the United States suppress the development of Chinese chips?
Let's also take a look at the views of foreign private netizens on this issue!
The perspective of a Dutch semiconductor engineer
I think I am the perfect person to answer this. I have been working in the semiconductor industry for years, currently living in the Netherlands, lived and worked in China for 3 years, I know a lot of engineers from ASML (expecially after they hired hundreds of Turkish engineers).
I think I'm the best person to answer that question. I have worked in the semiconductor industry for many years, currently living in the Netherlands, living and working in China for 3 years, I know a lot of engineers from ASML (especially after they hired hundreds of Turkish engineers).
Let me tell you something: High-end semiconductor manufacturing is black magic. Both the processes and tools used for it are very complex. ASML’s EUV lithography machine is probably the most complex tool humankind ever developed since it stopped jumping between trees. It took billions of Euros and decades of experience to perfect it. Other experienced lithography machine suppliers failed at it. China has no experience in high-end semiconductor manufacturing tools with the exception of one-off/few-off prototypes.
Let me tell you: high-end semiconductor manufacturing is a kind of black magic. The processes and tools it uses are very complex. ASML's EUV lithography machine is probably the most sophisticated tool ever invented by humans because it no longer jumps between trees. It has cost billions of euros and decades of experience to perfect it. Other experienced lithography machine suppliers have failed in this regard. China has no experience in high-end semiconductor manufacturing tools, except for one-off or small prototypes.
ASML’s EUV lithography machine. Needs 41 semi-trucks to get transported, costs $150 million, has 100.000 major parts, has mirrors that need months of grinding to reach needed smoothness, needs multiple people with PhD’s as machine operators. Quite high-tech. Isn’t it?
ASML's EUV lithography machine. The transport required 41 semi-trucks, cost $150 million, had 100,000 major components, the mirrors took months of polishing to reach the desired level of smoothness, and multiple people with PhDs were required to act as machine operators. Very high tech. Isn't it?
EUV lithography machine
Unfortunately, ASML is a very convenient target for the USA. The company uses a lot of critical parts from the USA but those parts don’t represent anything significant in the US economy in terms of their monetary value. Chinese electronics industry still depends on foreign chips so it can not threaten fabs with banning the sale of chips in China that were manufactured using ASML tools. Also, China isn’t a big customer of ASML too. In short, China can not answer with reciprocal sanctions.
Unfortunately, ASML is a very convenient target for the United States. The company uses many key components from the United States, but the monetary value of these components does not represent anything important in the U.S. economy. China's electronics industry still relies on foreign chips and therefore cannot threaten fabs by banning the sale of chips made using ASML tools in China. In addition, China is not a big customer of Asma. In short, China cannot respond with reciprocal sanctions.
Is China hopeless? No.
China desperate? No!
1- All of those tools are engineered and made by humans, and the laws of physics are the same both in the Netherlands and China. If the Netherlands could, then there is no reason for anybody else to fail with the correct approach.
1- All of these tools are designed and manufactured by humans, and the laws of physics are the same in both the Netherlands and China. If the Netherlands can, then there is no reason for other countries to fail with the right method.
2- China is filthy rich compared to the Netherlands. Chinese economy is 17x of the Netherlands’, 9x of SK’s, 27x of Taiwan’s, 3+x of Japan’s. With state support, Chinese fabs and tool makers can hire the top people from the rest of the world with salaries ASML, LamResearch, AM, Synopsys, TSMC, Samsung, … simply can not compete with. A significant portion of these companies’ employees are expats anyway, most of them are just after money.
2, China is richer than the Netherlands. China's economy is 17 times that of the Netherlands, 9 times that of SK, 27 times that of Taiwan, and 3 times that of Japan. With state support, Chinese fabs and toolmakers can hire top talent from the rest of the world with salaries that ASML, LamResearch, AM, Synopsys, TSMC, Samsung and others can't compete with. A large percentage of the employees at these companies are foreigners, and most of them are just for the money.
In fact China is already doing this successfully with good results. For example, it already has a working EUV lithography machine prototype, already caught up with the rest in chip testing, packaging, wafer production, also its first immersion lithography machine (good enough for most things) is getting prepared for commercial use.
In fact, China has succeeded in doing this and has achieved good results. For example, it already has a working prototype of an EUV lithography machine, catching up with other companies in chip testing, packaging, wafer production, and its first immersion lithography machine (which is good enough for most things) is ready for commercial use.
3- China is a scientific powerhouse on its own. It is the country with most patent applications, most research output, graduates more STEM students than any other country, 2nd largest R&D spender, has 11 universities in top 100. This leads us to my first point. If the Netherlands could, so can China if given enough time.
China itself is a scientific power. It is the country with the most patent applications and the largest output of research, stem majors have more graduates than any other country, and it ranks second in R&D spending, with 11 universities in the top 100. This brings me to my first point. If the Netherlands can, then as long as china is given enough time, china can too.
4- Catching up is much easier than innovating. Knowing something is possible and having a general knowledge of how it works make things much easier.
Catching up is much easier than innovating. Knowing something is possible, and having a general understanding of how it works will make things a lot easier.
5- Time is on the Chinese side. Technology of semiconductors is close to maturity/stalling (choose the word depending on your view). If the development slows (which it does) it gives China the opportunity to catch-up. If a tech revolution happens, then the playing field evens out anyway.
5- Time on the Chinese side. Semiconductor technology is close to maturity/stagnation (choose the word according to your point of view). If development slows down (and it does), China has a chance to catch up. If the technological revolution happens, then the playing field is fair anyway.
6- You don’t need EUV for the most things. You don’t even need high-end processes for the most things. There is more to semiconductors than the latest smartphone processors, GPUs, and CPUs. Look at iPhone 12 teardown videos. You will see a lot of chips. Only one of them needs EUV. An average modern car has 250+ computers inside. That means thousands of chips. All of them are manufactured using old processes. This is even more true for military and space applications. Those use very old chips that are known to be reliable and secure.
6- Most things don't require an EUV. For most things you don't even need a high-end process. Semiconductors are more than just the latest smartphone processors, graphics processors (GPUs), and CPUs. Take a look at the video of the iPhone 12 disassembly. You'll see a lot of chips. Only one requires an EUV. An ordinary modern car has 250 computers inside. That means thousands of chips. All of this is made with old processes. This is especially true in military and space applications. They use very old chips, but are known to be reliable and secure.
Conclusion: Blocking ASML from selling EUV machines to China can hurt Chinese businesses for some time but in the grand scheme it is insignificant. The USA needs to run faster rather than keep trying to block China if it wants to preserve its dominance in tech.
Conclusion: Blocking ASML from selling EUV equipment to China could hurt Chinese businesses for a while, but in the long run, it's trivial. If the U.S. wants to maintain its dominance in tech, it needs to run faster, rather than keep trying to stop China.
An update on the Chinese EUV light source: New Options for Synchrotron Light Sources
Update of China's extreme ultraviolet light source: a new choice of synchrotron light source
It seems the basic research is complete and the method completely different than of ASML’s.
It seems that the basic research has been completed, and the method is completely different from that of ASML.
The views of German netizens
This EUV thing has been adopted into China’s 14th 5-year plan which has been started since this year. And for the record, China has never missed a single deadline for the past 13 5-year plans. So it’s safe to say that China will have this thing by 2026. So speaking of the US resisting China’s development, it would be 4 more years for this particular item.
The EUV project has been included in China's 14th Five-Year Plan, launched this year. In the past 13 five-year plans, China has never missed a deadline, according to records. So it's safe to say that China will have it in 2026. So when it comes to the United States boycotting China's development, this project will take 4 years.
And the good thing for China having the EUV equipment is that the price of the equipment will be significantly dropped. So I guess that would be a benefit of the entire world.
The advantage of having EUV equipment in China is that the price of the equipment will drop significantly. So I guess it's good for the whole world.
America is ALREADY behind China in so MANY aspects and they are still denying and avoiding the thought that America might one day second to China. That frightens many Americans.
The United States has lagged behind China in many ways, and they are still denying and avoiding the idea that the United States will one day fall behind China. This has scared many Americans.
No matter how ineffective many of the counter-China measures, e.g. trade war, Americans have and are to put in place, they will keep doing the same things and getting themselves hurt before China does.
No matter how ineffective many of the bustling measures, such as the trade war, have been and will be put into practice by the Americans, they will continue to do the same thing, and they will take the initiative instead of waiting for China to overtake them.
The Chinese are the most industrious race on earth.
Chinese is the most industrious people in the world.
Necessity is the mother of Invention.
Demand is the mother of invention
The Chinese will find a way. The more you suppress them and the more you try to deny them the technology - they will begin to make it on their own and they will slowly do better and better.
Chinese will find a way. The more you suppress them, the more you try to deny their technology, and they start creating themselves and slowly getting better and better.
Chips is the best example.
Chips are prime examples.
As long as Taiwan kept supplying them the chips - The Chinese were happy. They focused on other things
As long as TSMC continues to supply them with chips — Chinese will be happy. Then they'll focus on other things.
TSMC plant in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province
The Minute Trump decided to threaten the Chinese - they decided to get their act together and start making their own chips. They will start with inferior ones but in 10 years - they will outmanufacture Taiwan at 1/3 the cost and take away the market.
From the moment Trump decides to threaten them, they will work together to start making their own chips. They will use inferior products at first, but in 10 years, their production costs will be one-third of TSMC's and take away the market
And the businessmen will say - “Uigyurs???? Who gives a damn about them. My shareholders matter” and will migrate from Taiwan to China in 10 seconds.
Merchants would say, "Uyghurs???? Who cares about them. My shareholders are the most important" and will be relocated from Taiwan to Chinese mainland within 10 seconds
The US may try again and again but
Americans may try again and again, but:
(a) They waited too long. China is too rich today. They have too much money.
They will wait a long time. Today's China is too rich. They have too much money.
(b) China has too many tentacles in foreign countries. Thousands of Chinese in various industries who are experts.
China has too many tentacles abroad. Thousands of Chinese experts are distributed in all walks of life.
In Space alone - China was behind India until 2010 - but today - they have their own Mapping System for their huge landmass as well as are in the position of becoming the Third country in the globe to land on Mars - having landed on the moon.
Only in space — China was behind India until 2010 — but today — they have their own vast land mapping system and are in position to become the world's third country to land on Mars — have landed on the moon.
China and Russia are on the verge of building their own International Space Station having both the financial muscle and technology.
China and Russia are about to build their own International Space Station, and they have both the financial resources and the technology.
You cannot bully or intimidate or stifle Progress. Eventually Life finds a way.
You cannot rely on bullying, intimidation or stifling progress. Eventually, life found a way.
US should learn this lesson hard. The more they try - they may get 10 years more but in the end China will get there and take over.
The United States should learn its lesson. The more they try — the more they may reach the same technology and take over the entire market within a decade at the latest.
It might be quite awhile, but there are many variables that’s in play.
This may take a while, but there are a lot of variables at play.
It should be noted that NO country at this point can produce the ASML EUV equipment on its own (or even the older generation DUV is questionable), ASML relies heavily on suppliers from Germany / UK / US / Japan etc as well to make their equipment, Japan might be the closest country that can produce a similar (but older generation) equipment relying only on company / tech inside their border.
It's important to note that no country can currently produce ASML's EUV equipment on its own (even the older generation of DUVs is questionable), ASML relies heavily on suppliers from countries such as Germany/UK/US/Japan to produce their equipment, and Japan may be the closest country to be able to produce similar (but older generation) equipment, relying only on its own company/technology.
As of right now the ASML not selling highest-end EUV to China isn’t even really a thing, because they can’t produce enough of them anyway, and the whole project managed to get off the ground because Intel / TSMC / Samsung funded the project SPECIFICALLY so that ASML only really sells to them that machine. it’s not just SMIC of China that can’t buy it, even global foundery of the world can’t either.
For now, ITML doesn't sell the highest-spec UV to China because they can't produce enough UV anyway, and the whole project starts successfully, because Intel/TSMC/Samsung specifically funded the project, so ASML only sells that machine to them. Not only China's SMIC can't buy it, but even foundries around the world can't buy it.
There are many layers of problems to China building it’s own extreme ultraviolet lithography machines, but the most difficult is the fact that EUV and the way TSMC & Samsung uses them are the extreme edge of precision engineering and manufacturing. something China has never been particularly great at, for example, they still struggle so far to build their own internal combustion engines to the same level as Japan / Germany (the two key powerhouse players in doing such things.)
There are many levels of problems with China making its own polar ultraviolet lithography machines, but the most difficult is that EUV and the way TSMC and Samsung use them are extreme advantages of precision engineering and manufacturing. China has never been particularly good at this, for example, so far they are still trying to make the same internal combustion engine as Japan/Germany (the two key powers are doing this kind of thing).
There are certainly potential ways for China to reengineer the process and come up with something that has a relatively similar end result but relies on different technologies, however that would require them to completely reinvent the wheel of something that was basically the collaboration of the whole world over decades on their own. Again, that’s not IMPOSSIBLE, but it’s certainly extremely difficult and inefficient.
It's certainly possible for China to redesign this process and come up with something that has a relatively similar end result but relies on different technologies, but it will require them to completely reinvent the wheel of things, which is basically the work of the whole world over decades, on its own. Again, it is not impossible, but it is certainly extremely difficult and inefficient.
Not to mention that this is not a purely scientific / engineering project, the difference with TSMC winning over other competitors is primarily COST. i.e that it’s not that Intel CAN’T do 7nm, they can, it’s that their failure rate is much higher than TSMC that if say, Apple relies only on Intel for their 7nm chip, they’ll have to sell their iphone at a much higher price and/or one of Intel or Apple (or both) go bankrupt.
Not to mention that this is not a purely scientific/engineering project, the difference between TSMC and other competitors is mainly in cost. That is, it's not that Intel can't do 7nm, it's that they can, but that their failure rate is much higher than TSMC's, and if Apple only relies on Intel to do their 7nm chips, they'll have to sell their iPhones and/or Intel or Apple (or both) go bankrupt at a higher price.
So even if China COULD reverse engineer or re-engineer the EUV machine or subsititute, if it doesn’t actually win out on a cost basis it’s basically useless commercially, an insanely expensive academic project (we’re talking about NASA level funding.) most importantly, the US could simply shut out said machine using standards, and for local chinese companies like SMIC to adapt a different system would be extremely problematic.
So even if China could reverse engineer or redesign or replace the EUV machine, if it doesn't really win in cost, it's basically useless commercially, a crazy expensive academic project (we're talking about NASA-level funding). On top of that, the U.S. could simply rule out the use of standard machines, while adapting a different system to local Chinese companies such as SMIC would be very problematic.
Is it POSSIBLE if China just like nationalize SMIC and stuff? yeah, but it would in the grander scheme of things, be pretty close to cutting off your own nose to spit your enemy. China would effectively be abandoning the world market for decades in such a scenario. and probably move slower than their competitors.
If China nationalizes SMIC, is it possible? True, but in a larger sense, it's like cutting off your own nose to spit on your enemies. In this case, China is effectively abandoning the world market within a few decades. And probably move more slowly than their competitors.
What China SHOULD do, is what they have been doing most of the time (some major exceptions of terrible mistakes and frauds non-withstanding.) which is to try and gradually move up the chain and establish more and more companies in this field and hope that some of them eventually hold a major niche that becomes almost indispensable in this field. I’d say that most of the actual workers / players in this field in China understands this and is more or less trying to do that.
What China should do, which they have been doing most of the time (despite some serious mistakes and fraud), is to try and gradually move the chain upwards, build more and more companies in this space, and hopefully some of them will eventually occupy an almost indispensable major niche in this space. I would say that most of the practitioners/participants in this field in China understand this and are more or less trying to do so.
But just to remind people, semi conductor’s main raw material input is Silicon
But remind everyone that the main raw material of semiconductors is silicon.
So just to give an idea what shutting out China REALLY looks like.
So let's see what it's like to keep China out.
Now that’s the part on why it’s a major problem for China, the other side of the coin is that the US is increasingly playing a dangerous game as well and could blow up its own advantages or worse.
That's why it's a major problem for China, and the flip side of the coin is that the U.S. is also increasingly playing a dangerous game that could destroy its own advantage, or worse.
If you’re ASML and the EU in general, you’re not exactly thrilled to basically have the US policy forced upon you as well. and would probably now actively think about having replacement tech for the US/UK stuff if possible so that you have at least political and economic independence (i.e even if they don’t sell to China, it’s on their terms and not because the US commanded them to do so.) and once that happens the next potential moves by US and others could become quite scary.
If you're ASML and the European Union, you won't be excited about U.S. policies imposing on you. If possible, it may now be positive to consider having the technology to replace the US/UK product so that you have at least political and economic independence (that is, even if they don't sell to China, it's on their terms, not because the US ordered them to do so), and once that happens, the next potential move by the US and other countries could become very scary.
It should be generally noted that the EU and other US allies is actually paying almost all the price for the trade war/ geopolitical struggle with China / Russia while the US is benefitting at their expense.
It should be noted that the eu and other allies of the EU and the US actually paid almost all the price for trade with China/Russia, while the US benefited from their losses.
( One easy prediction, there will be a major famine crisis in Africa / Middle East next few years, and will result in another refugee crisis that might make the last one look mundane. )
(A simple prediction is that there will be a severe famine crisis in Africa/Middle East in the coming years and will lead to another refugee crisis, which could make the previous crisis seem unremarkable.) )
So far if one look at the score board it’s pretty much the US wins and everyone else (friend or foe) loses with a few small exceptions.
So far, if you look at the scoreboard, basically the U.S. has won, everyone else (friend or foe) has lost, with a few small exceptions.
This is clearly unsustainable over the long term, and it’s not like this is just happening as a new thing, the general trend has been on-going since at least the early 2000s and not only have the likes of China and Russia been making obvious contingency plans, one would be naive to think that the EU is just a pure puppet with no independent thought or interest apart from the US.
This is clearly unsustainable in the long run, and this is nothing new, and this megatrend has been going on since at least the early 2000s, not only have countries like China and Russia been making obvious contingency plans, people will naively think that the EU is just a pure puppet, with no independent ideas or interests other than the United States.