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EDRise of China's semiconductors

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More efforts needed to nurture highly qualified workers

Global chip sales from Chinese companies will grow rapidly in the next few years, closing the gap with their South Korean rivals, according to a report from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) of the United States.

The report, released last week, said, "If China's semiconductor development continues its strong momentum, the Chinese semiconductor industry could generate $116 billion in annual revenue by 2024, capturing upwards of 17.4 percent of global market share." In contrast, Korea's global market share is forecast to remain at 20 percent through 2024, meaning that the gap in global market share between the two countries would narrow to 3 percentage points over the next three years.

China's rapid growth in semiconductor chip sales is attributed to government subsidies, procurement preferences and other preferential policies amid increasing U.S.-China tensions. In recent years, China has spent billions of dollars trying to catch up with the world's leading chipmakers. In fact, China has invested over $50 billion in two phases under the "Big Fund" project since 2014 to build a competitive chip ecosystem.

Of course, China's aggressive push for chips has often hit a snag. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that at least six new chip-building projects have failed in China over the past three years. However, there is no room for complacency on the part of our chipmakers, considering that China's semiconductor industry could be on the verge of overtaking them in 2024.

Developing the world's best technology is essential to keep the semiconductor industry competitive against foreign rivals. Companies should make bold investments and the government ought to support them actively. The most serious problem seems to be the shortage of highly qualified workers, given that the semiconductor industry needs some 10,000 new workers every three years while our major universities produce only one 10th of that number. The new administration to be launched in May should work on a blueprint to nurture professional personnel in the semiconductor industry.


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