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On August 27, Tsinghua Unigroup announced that it had signed an agreement with the Chongqing government to build a DRAM fab in Chongqing’s Liangjiang New Area. The facility will begin construction this year, and it’s scheduled for completion by the end of 2021.
TrendForce noted in its new report that the fast pace of the construction is due to the Chinese government’s commitment to becoming an independent producer of memory chips, among other things.
Long before the recent trade war with the United States began, the Chinese government already had a plan to dominate the technology sector. Some of that plan became more clear and evident when the Chinese government revealed its “Made in China 2025” policy, which aims to use government subsidies, state-owned companies, as well as acquired intellectual property, to catch up to, and then surpass western technology industries.
However, the recent trade war with the U.S. essentially gave China no choice but to bet everything on that plan and try to sustain its economy through its own technology industries. That seems to have prompted more aggressive investments in new sectors, including the memory chip production sector.
TrendForce believes that even though the fab could be completed in a short time, questions remain about how good Tsinghua’s process technology will actually be. Unlike JHICC and CXMT, two other major players in the new local Chinese DRAM market, Tsinghua doesn’t have an external partner that can provide the needed expertise.
JHICC obtained its know-how from the Taiwanese UMC before the U.S. sanctions hit the Taiwanese companies. Similarly, CXMT obtained its expertise from Qimonda, a German memory maker that split out from Infineon Technologies back in 2006.
According to TrendForce, if Tsinghua has to set up its own process technologies, then it could take as much as 3-5 years before we see serious DRAM production from the company.
This isn’t Tsinghua’s first attempt to make DRAM products. It first wanted to develop DRAM chips as early as 2014, but it didn’t have enough government backing at the time. At the time, it had to give up those plans and focus on NAND chip production instead.
JHICC has met with some U.S. export restrictions, and CXMT has remained the only unaffected Chinese DRAM company with plans to mass-produce DRAM chips by the end of 2020. However, the Chinese government wants more than one company to sustain the local DRAM production, which is why it has regained interest in supporting Tsinghua’s plans to develop and manufacture DRAM products.