As YMTC Booms, China Aims to Dominate Flash Memory Industry

Despite China’s struggles other the years to seed its domestic semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME) industry, the rise of Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC) threatens to unseat non-PRC firms. That state-sponsored growth could position the People’s Republic of China to unseat the United States as a leader in next-generation flash memory, or so-called 3-D NAND memory, Dr. Roslyn Latyon writes in Forbes today.

“YMTC is focused on 128-layer and 196-layer chips, leapfrogging over earlier generations,” a new report by James Mulvenon, head of SOS International. Estimates indicate the company could capture seven to 15 percent of global 128-layer product production by 2024.

Like SMIC, YMTC has ties to the People’s Liberation Army; it is partially owned by the Tsinghua Unigroup, which supplies China’s military. Separately, evidence indicates YMTC is associated with criminal activity, including a Social Security spoofing scam, identify theft and cyber extortion.

Foreign suppliers, including U.S. companies, are accelerating China’s supremacy in 3-D NAND technology. YMTC, like most Chinese chip makers, relies on foreign countries for SME, including wafer lab equipment, high-end lithography machines and aperture etching tools.

The Trump administration still has time to implement controls to stop the flow of SME to China, Layton states—a move that President-elect Biden and his administration would like support and continue to build on. President-elect Biden’s advisors, including James Lewis of the Center for International and Strategic Studies, have signaled the importance of maintaining a tough stance against China’s tech ambitions.

Given China’s express strategy of Military-Civil Fusion for obtaining sensitive dual-use technology, some experts advocate that the United States should restrict and “decouple” its entire semiconductor industry from the People’s Republic of China. Mike Cys, Director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce, notes that of the 1400 companies on the U.S. Entity, over a third were added by the Trump Administration, including more than 300 from the PRC alone.