The best integrated circuit manufacturing equipment is in the hands of two nations: the Netherlands and Japan. The Dutch company ASML is so far the only one capable of producing the extreme ultraviolet (UVE) lithography machines that TSMC, Intel and Samsung are using in its most advanced nodes. However, Tokyo Electron, Canon and Nikon also develop very sophisticated lithographic equipment. And all three are Japanese.
It is currently not possible to make cutting-edge chips without equipment from these four companies, and China does not have access to these lithography equipment. The US prevents it from doing so with the purpose, according to the Joe Biden Administration, of preventing the country led by Xi Jinping from being able to produce the advanced semiconductors it needs to develop its military capacity. In its ‘National Security Strategy’, the US government makes it quite clear how concerned it is about China’s economic, military and technological power.
It worries him so much, in fact, that at the beginning of last March and at the request of the US Executive, the Government of the Netherlands approved new sanctions that prevent ASML from selling its computer equipment to companies in this Asian country. deep ultraviolet lithography (UVP). These are its second most advanced chip-making machines, leaving China in a very delicate position because it has also never been able to access its SVU equipment.
China has no choice but to turn to Japan, but the US is watching
The only option for the Chinese government to prevent its semiconductor industry from stagnating is to reach an agreement with Japan for the latter country to sell the lithographic equipment it produces without restrictions of any kind. Wang Wentao, the Chinese Commerce Minister, has demanded that Yasutoshi Nishimura, his Japanese counterpart, arrest him for “misconduct that seriously violates the rules of international trade.”
China warns US-led alliance that using trade as a weapon will have consequences
At the beginning of last April, Nishimura confirmed that his country will ban the sale to China of 23 categories of equipment involved in the manufacture of advanced semiconductors. This measure will come into force during the next month of july and it represents the definitive consolidation of the pressure that the US government is exerting on its allies. As is logical, the Chinese Administration is doing everything in its power to prevent this package of sanctions from Japan from taking effect.
However, you can do something else. Something even more forceful: prevent the most sensitive foreign companies from accessing the huge Chinese market. In any case, the Xi Jinping government has not been waiting. Mao Ning, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has assured that “the use of the economy, trade and technology as if they were a weapon with the purpose of destabilizing the global industrial chain will not only hurt others; it will also harm who performs these practices”. There is no doubt that it is a full-fledged warning.
A few hours ago, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce issued a statement urging the Japanese Administration to cooperate in the fields of economy and trade. Japan is moving between two waters, but in the current situation this Asian country It’s much closer to the US. that of China, something that became clear during the G7 summit that was held in Hiroshima a few days ago. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks, but most likely, as planned, Japan’s latest sanctions package will come into force sometime next July.
Cover image: ASML
More information: Reuters
In Xataka: The technological war between China and the US right now has a clear winner. And it’s neither of the two