China to Pour More Money Into Chips, AI and 5G to Catch U.S.
(Bloomberg) — China pledged to boost spending and drive research into cutting-edge chips and artificial intelligence in its latest five-year targets, laying out a technological blueprint to vie for global influence with the U.S.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang singled out key areas in which to achieve “major breakthroughs in core technologies,” including high-end semiconductors, operating systems, computer processors and cloud computing — areas in which American firms now hold sway. Beijing will also aim to get 56% of the country on faster fifth-generation or 5G networks. Nationwide R&D spending will increase by more than 7% annually, which “is expected to account for a higher percentage of GDP” than during the previous five years, he added.China is moving quickly to cut its dependence on the West for crucial components like computer chips, an issue that became more urgent after a global shortage of semiconductors worsened during the pandemic. Beijing is also making big bets on emerging technologies from hydrogen vehicles to biotech while looking to ensure its own chipmakers can compete with the likes of Intel Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. That encompasses a new emphasis on silicon design software and so-called third-generation chipmaking — two areas critical to Beijing’s drive to achieve technology self-sufficiency.“Innovation remains at the heart of China’s modernization drive,” Li said in an address to the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Friday. “We will strengthen our science and technology to provide strategic support for China’s development.”Li’s speech punctuated goals enumerated in China’s 14th five-year plan, also released Friday, which prioritized advances in younger spheres such as quantum computing, neural networks and DNA banks. The document enshrines a multi-layered strategy both pragmatic and ambitious in scope, embracing aspirations to replace pivotal U.S. suppliers and fend off Washington, while molding homegrown champions in emergent fields.Chipmakers including Shenzhen Goodix Technology Co. and China Resources Microelectronics Ltd. rose more than 3% on mainland bourses in the afternoon. But Hong Kong-listed Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., China’s largest chipmaker, slipped in tandem with a broader global tech-shares selloff.Read more: China Sets Conservative Economic Growth Target of Above 6%At stake is nothing less than the future of the world’s No. 2 economy. Beijing is moving swiftly while the Biden administration escalates a battle against what it called “techno-autocracies.” That could extend or even expand blacklistings that banned key transactions with corporations from Huawei Technologies Co. to ByteDance Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.To a country that imports $300 billion of chips annually, a worsening global shortage drives home the risk of relying on potentially hostile suppliers for the building blocks of everything from AI to next-generation networks and autonomous vehicles. Friday’s report formalized China’s ambitions to develop its own software for semiconductor design — supplanting tools from American firms Cadence Design Systems Inc. and Synopsys Inc.It also pledged to develop its own advanced chip manufacturing technologies and key materials that comprise third-generation chips. The country aims to secure first-mover advantage in that nascent arena, involving compounds such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride and chips can operate at high frequency and in higher power and temperature environments, with broad applications in fifth-generation radio frequency chips, military-grade radar and electric vehicles.While specifics of that endeavor won’t emerge for months, Friday’s documents provided important clues about the envisioned roadmap. That includes building more national laboratories and innovation centers, as well as ramping up efforts to implement a little-heard of program called the Sci-Tech Innovation 2030 Agenda. Beijing also revealed plans to try and entice more talent from abroad via a “technology immigration system,” likely targeting semiconductor hotbeds from Silicon Valley to Taiwan.Read more: China Deals Fresh Blow to Tech Giants in Reach for DataOpen sharing of data will be key, according to the report. Beijing is establishing a platform for sharing public and government data, while simultaneously crafting policies to ensure the security of that information. In a related move, the five-year plan called on technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to share key data, dealing a further blow to companies already reeling from heightened antitrust scrutiny.“Basic research is the wellspring of scientific and technological innovation,” Li said. “So we will ensure the stable functioning of funding mechanism for basic research and boost spending in this area by a considerable sum.”(Updates with share action from the sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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