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China buys near-record $40 billion of chip gear to beat US curbs

China imports of chipmaking machines jumped last year as firms ramped up investment in an attempt to get around United States-led efforts to hobble the nation’s semiconductor industry.

Imports of the machinery that are used to manufacture computer chips rose 14 per cent in 2023 to almost US$40 billion – the second largest amount by value on record in data going back to 2015, according to Bloomberg calculations based on official customs data.

The increase came despite a 5.5 per cent drop in total imports last year, underscoring the importance that the Chinese government and the nation’s chip industry have placed on becoming self-sufficient.

Chinese chip companies are rapidly investing in new semiconductor factories to try and advance the nation’s capabilities and get around export controls which have been imposed by the US and its allies.

Those curbs are making it harder for Chinese companies to get access to the machines needed to make the most powerful chips – and slowing the development of China’s high-tech sector, which is seen as a threat to the US.

China’s imports from the Netherlands soared last year ahead of new export controls, which will further limit the ability of companies such as Semiconductor Manufacturing International to get the latest machinery. Bloomberg

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