The Japan-based outlet Nikkei Asia reports that YMTC – the Chinese semiconductor chipmaker with deep ties to the Chinese military – will bring a second production facility online by the end of this year.
Opening that plant will aid YMTC in boosting its capacity to produce cutting edge chips – not just its current most advanced output of 128-layer chips, but 196 and 232-layer chips down the line. The new factory, according to the Nikkei report, “could further close the company’s technology and output gap with global leaders like Samsung of South Korea and Micron Technology of the U.S.”
Another outlet, a Chinese-language website called Sina Technology, likewise reports – perhaps gloats – that “The new fab will eventually double the capacity of the first fab, and the two fabs will have a combined capacity of 300,000 wafers per month, helping YMTC expand its global market share to more than 10 percent.”
A second production facility will signal to the world that it is a growing force to be reckoned with as a chip producer. So will a deal between Apple and YMTC. As China Tech Threat and the Coalition for a Prosperous America documented in a recent report, the impending agreement for YMTC to supply chips for the iPhone poses myriad risks to American security and prosperity. It also portends the exit of at least one manufacturer of memory chips from that sector.
For all of these reasons, experts who track the intersection of national security and technology have expressed alarm at the potential of a new YMTC facility:
Martjin Rasser of the Center for a New American Security tweeted:
China expert Eric Sayers tweeted:
Technology policy expert Klon Kitchen tweeted:
Of course, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) could put new export controls in place to cut off YMTC from American chipmaking technologies. But for years, BIS has bent its knee to industry instead of national security, failing even to honor a congressional mandate to assess the need for export controls surrounding emerging technologies. Rep. Michael McCaul stated recently, “The Bureau of Industry & Security puts too much emphasis on industry and very little if nothing on security and that has to change.” Placing YMTC on the Entity List will ensure that Chinese military actors do not get access to leading edge US chip technologies and thus protect Americans’ security.