Micron, ASML, Samsung cosy up to China, attend International Import Expo, NVIDIA abstains

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Chipmakers like Micron, ASML and Samsung attending the China International Import Expo will not sit well with the US, considering they are still engaged in a tech war with China. However, in recent weeks, US’ stance against China has been softening

Despite the escalating technological rivalry with the United States, China’s pursuit of chip self-sufficiency has drawn the attention of chip giants from the US, South Korea, and the Netherlands. At the annual China International Import Expo (CIIE), the “integrated circuit special section” features a total of 47 chip-related companies, including Qualcomm and Micron Technology from the United States, Dutch chip equipment manufacturer ASML Holding, and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics.

This year, Micron, which faced a partial sales ban in China due to a national security review in May, is participating in the event for the first time. Notably, VIP visitors such as Commerce Minister Wang Wentao and Nicholas Burns, the US ambassador to China, have toured the Micron booth. A Micron representative at the booth emphasized the company’s improved relations with Beijing, underscoring their commitment to the Chinese market.

The integrated circuit (IC) section is part of the Intelligent Industry and Information Technology segment of the CIIE, established in 2020 to foster an integrated circuit industry ecosystem and promote innovation among domestic enterprises, according to event organizers quoted by the state news agency Xinhua.

Samsung, a prominent presence in the IC section, has been visited by government officials interested in the company’s latest consumer products and inquiries regarding its chip business in China. Samsung showcased its cutting-edge 3nm Gate-All-Around wafer, stating that it can only be manufactured in South Korea and other countries outside of China, as its Chinese facilities focus on producing mature-node chips.

ASML’s booth has also garnered significant attention from visitors, including government agency representatives. The chip equipment manufacturer presented a timeline of its China business development and exhibited a component from one of its deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machines, which are currently at the centre of US chip sanctions against China.

In addition to the aforementioned companies, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) participated for the third year, showcasing its artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for data centres and consumer electronics. Spencer Pan, AMD’s Senior Vice President and Greater China President, expressed AMD’s strategic commitment to AI, aiming to strengthen cooperation with the local industry and contribute to China’s development through the CIIE platform.

Nevertheless, not all chip companies are represented at the event, which runs from November 5 to 10. Leading AI chip maker Nvidia, subject to tightening US trade sanctions, did not set up a booth, continuing its absence from the event over the past five years.

However, Qualcomm featured its latest Snapdragon processor unveiled in October, highlighting its integration into Xiaomi and iQOO smartphones. The company also emphasized its contributions to companies like Tencent Holdings, providing chips for generative AI applications.

The CIIE occurs at a time when many chip companies face challenges due to a prolonged industrial downturn and sluggish consumer demand. Both AMD and Qualcomm have been reducing their workforce in China this year, optimizing and restructuring their China business operations. Qualcomm has reported layoffs in its Shanghai office, as reported by local media in September.

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