China’s military manufacturing unlikely impacted by semiconductor ban: insiders
Published: Feb 24, 2020 08:08 PM

An employee showcases a semiconductor integrated circuit at an industry expo on October 31. Photo: VCG

As 42 countries including the US are reportedly planning to restrict weapon-capable semiconductor parts exports in a move to prevent technologies from "leaking" to China, insiders said on Monday that the restriction will unlikely hinder development of China's military manufacturing, but will only further promote the country's independent efforts in the sector.

The insiders' comments came after a group of 42 countries, including Japan and the US, agreed to include military-grade cyber software and manufacturing technology of weapon-capable semiconductor parts for export control - a move aimed at "curbing the proliferation of technology to countries such as China and North Korea," Kyodo News reported on Sunday, citing sources close to the matter.

The agreement was reached at a meeting in December of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, a Vienna-headquartered international nonbinding regime that restricts exporting commodities and technologies that may be diverted to military and weapons use, according to these sources.

China is fully capable of independently manufacturing military-related integrated circuits, as the country understands that this technology is crucial to national security, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Monday.

Semiconductors are basic components in many modern weapons systems, and China would not expect Western countries to provide aid to China's military programs, the expert said.

China Electronics Technology Group Corp, a state-owned company in the arms industry, has developed a series of machines to make chips, which greatly reduced reliance on foreign products, according to the expert.

"In fact, some Chinese military firms have been included in the US entity list for a long time - we were forced to grow independently over the past few years," an insider working at a military-related factory told the Global Times on Monday, saying that the move is "within expectations."

However, the insider disclosed that although China has the ability to produce, China's imports for military semiconductors are still huge, as "the cost will be higher if produced domestically."

According to an industry report obtained by the Global Times, military semiconductors account for around 2 percent of China's total weapons expenditure, and the annual market potential is expected to reach 6 billion yuan ($853.36 million).

"Imported semiconductors also generally have a better performance compared with domestic ones. Take the night vision goggles as an example, foreign goggles made with foreign parts could be used for 15,000 hours, while domestically made ones could only last for around 10,000 hours or even less," said the insider.