Samsung has a far smaller share than TSMC in the wafer foundry sector, but Samsung's technologies built from its experience in memory and Exynos series AP production are as good as any other leading players. At the moment, Samsung's non-memory businesses together contribute only 7% of the company's revenues, but profits from its memory business are 3.2 times those of TSMC. However, in terms of profits from non-memory businesses, TSMC are 6.2 times Samsung's.
The worldwide semiconductor equipment market, which had a scale of US$60.5 billion in 2018, is controlled mostly by companies in the West. The development of China's semiconductor industry has been constantly threatened by possible US government bans on makers providing most advanced equipment to China's firms.
The global IC packaging and testing market had a scale of US$28 billion in 2018 with the top-10 players commanding a combined 84% share. Three of the top-10 players are based in China. Of the four sectors in China's semiconductor industry, packaging and testing is the one with technologies closest to the worldwide level. This is because Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology began its acquisition strategy early. Jiangsu Changjiang currently generates revenues of around US$3.64 billion a year, holding a global market share of 13%.
China at the moment has as many as 30 semiconductor fabs under construction - the most ambitious investment plan the global semiconductor industry has ever seen. China's memory industry was originally meant to be a key growth driver, but it has lost momentum after the US ban on exports to China-based DRAM maker JHICC. On the other hand, China's wafer foundry sector continues seeing expansions with at least 13 local fabs eyeing business opportunities in the sector.
The different sectors of the semiconductor industry are clearly defined with specific work, and therefore each sector's self-sufficiency rate must be looked at in their own right. The meaning of "Made in China" would mean little if seen in a confusing perspective. Lumping together the production values of IC design, manufacturing, and packaging and testing can only provide a clue to the entire scale of the semiconductor industry, not to its self-sufficiency.
Undoubtedly the semiconductor industry is a key factor underlying the US-China trade war. However, when we try to understand the strength and progress of China's semiconductor industry, we discover that all the figures seem connected and yet cannot be compared directly. The production value of the wafer manufacturing industry should not be combined with that of IC design, as the two sectors have completely different business structures. Reading the semiconductor industry's figures is like viewing a country's budget plan, both filled with hidden, curious and unanswerable parts.
Prior to 2000, the majority of China's industry was basically manufacturing businesses expanding from the Pearl River Delta to the Yangtze River Delta, and then onto Chengdu and Chongqing. However, with the production ecosystem growing mature, many of the supporting sectors also started to take shape, giving a new outlet for China's industry.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook are five major Internet service providers of the US. Their relationships with China have gradually turned from collaborations to confrontations, as the country has been citing national security or the need to grow local enterprises to bar the US firms from the China market.
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has claimed that software is eating the world, but AI is going to eat software. The concept of machine learning has somehow infinitely expanded people's imagination about software. The biggest difference compared to hardware is that software offers high added value that incurs very low cost in making copies of the software. But each software developer needs to develop its own unique business model.
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