This issue covers the period between August 24 - 30, 2020 with six news stories – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources. Disclaimer: all translated article titles are done by me, not official translations from the media outlets.

Before you go on, please check out my latest deep dive post: "Can You 'Nationalize' Open Source?"

The Future of American Industry Depends on Open Source Tech” (English Source: Wired)

My Thoughts: This is an opinion piece I wrote with Jordan Schneider, host of the ChinaTalk podcast and newsletter, that was published last week in Wired magazine. I’m highlighting it here again not (just) to self-promote, but because I really care about fostering and growing open source technologies to help all countries and all people innovate and adapt to an increasingly tech-driven world. Open source technologies are already permeating our daily lives whether we know it or not. How America sees open source in its industrial future, if at all, will be an important topic to watch. I noted emphatically in my deep-dive post last week that “China’s posture towards open source is perhaps the most important thing that no one is paying attention to right now.” We can easily extend this thinking to other countries and major regional economies -- all trying to figure out their place in a 21st century, where code and geopolitics are interconnected.

ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming, left, and Apple CEO Tim Cook at ByteDance headquarters in Beijing in October 2018. Photo credit: Imagine China/Associated Press 

TikTok’s Founder Wonders What Hit Him” (English Source: Wall Street Journal)

My Thoughts: I always enjoy reading lengthy profiles of entrepreneurs, political figures, inventors, artists, and anyone who’s doing extraordinary things. Zhang Yiming, regardless of your feelings or opinions of TikTok or ByteDance, is doing extraordinary things, and thus receiving some equally extraordinary treatments from U.S. regulators. Much of this profile repackages the course of events that unfolded around TikTok in the last few months. But there are tidbits about Zhang’s life that are worth noting. He’s 37 (four years older than me) and represents a new generation of tech entrepreneurs in China, who “skews more California than Great Hall of the People.” He openly pushed back against a wave of censorship that happened in 2009, writing a since-deleted blog post calling on others to “Go out and wear a T-shirt supporting Google. If you block the internet, I’ll write what I want to say on my clothes.” He was of course a much smaller fish back then. This ethos is consistent with many of the entrepreneurs from China of his/mine generation, whom I got to know and work with over the last few years. Their values are more “western” and “free” in their hearts. Consequently, they are also less politically burdened than the previous generation of Chinese tech entrepreneurs, like Jack Ma, Pony Ma, Robin Li, and others, who have had to navigate a much different China to succeed. We will no doubt experience more twists and turns with TikTok’s future in the next few months, the latest being China’s own regulators throwing their hats in the ring. But if you want to take a longer view, it’s always valuable to keep in mind the entrepreneurs’ own history, where they came, when/how they grew up, and what motivates them to do what they do.

“‘Better Yield on 5nm than 7nm’: TSMC Update on Defect Rates for N5” (English Source: AnandTech)

My Thoughts: TSMC’s industry-leading 5nm semiconductor manufacturing process is reaching volume production and appears to have a higher yield rate (aka less defects) than its 7nm process, when it was at the same point in its development cycle. In short: TSMC is crushing it. Chips produced using the 5nm technology supposedly provides a 15% speed increase, while using 30% less power and packs 1.8-times more logic density than its 7nm counterpart. These high-end chips will be in smartphones later this year. TSMC also plans to build a fab in Arizona that has this 5nm process, due to cost $12 billion USD and be completed in 2024, an important development I missed until now. American foundries are currently stuck at the 10nm level with Intel failing to reach 7nm. So America is at least 5-7 years behind Taiwan. Ouch!

From TSMC's 2020 Technology Symposium. Source:

Firm Conviction! China’s Loongson decides to give up all American technology and make a pure, domestic instruction set” (Chinese Source: InfoQ)

My thoughts: If America is struggling with semiconductor manufacturing, China is struggling even more, with US sanctions choking off almost all the intellectual property and equipment it needs to make more advanced chips. One of the core pieces of IP is the Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), the specs that tell chips how to do computations, from basic ones like addition and subtraction, to complex ones like matrix multiplication. Looks like China will increase its commitment and investment in a pure, domestic ISA, Loongson, that was first developed by the Institute of Computing Technology as part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. If successful, the Loongson ISA dubbed “LoongArch” will play a pivotal role in weaving the country off of its reliance on the duopoly of the ISA licensing market dominated by Intel and ARM, with some challenge from the open source option, RISC-V. (For a deep dive on RISC-V, I recommend you read a previous post RISC-V, China, Nightingales). There is one twist: the Loongson ISA derives heavily from the MIPS architecture, which is American technology. Neither the Commerce Department nor CFIUS has said anything about MIPS...yet.

XPeng IPO pops 66% on opening day: Surpassing Tesla to become the next Toyota” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)

My thoughts: XPeng’s IPO on the NASDAQ (ticker: XPEV) is the latest of a string of Chinese tech company IPOs in New York that continue to counter the narrative that American capital markets are wary or hostile towards companies from China. Other examples are: Agora, Beke, Dada, Blue, and Li Auto. Of course, the IPO market in general is red hot; a slew of American tech firms, many in the enterprise SaaS space filed their S1 last week: Snowflake, Palantir, Asana, JFrog, etc. Tesla’s ballooning market cap, buoyed by real success in its manufacturing productivity and improved profitability, is lifting all companies in the electric vehicle space. This 36Kr piece has some interesting anecdotes about Li Xiaopeng, XPeng’s CEO (yes the company’s name is the CEO’s name), as a second-time entrepreneur, who is already financially secure, has a Godfather-like reputation as a product genius similar to Elon Musk, and is calm, steady, and has a long-term vision. XPeng is also most closely compared to Tesla in China’s EV market, even though its market share is much smaller than Tesla’s. XPeng clearly has big ambitions to fulfill, so it’ll be interesting to watch whether its status as a NASDAQ-listed company will help or hurt its potential in the long run. The headline of this article is a bit strange though: Tesla’s market cap is already twice as big as Toyota’s.

Taiwan’s mobile chip maker, MediaTek, submits license application to the US government, hoping to continue supplying Huawei” (Chinese Source: Tencent Tech News)

My thoughts: This news cites reporting from Taiwan’s “Economic Daily”, who originally reported MediaTek’s application to the US government, seeking licensing approval to sell to Huawei. MediaTek is a Taiwanese fabless semiconductor company that provides chips for wireless communications -- a major player in the mobile chip space with a market cap of roughly $30 billion USD. The result of this application will be the first concrete example of whether American regulators will apply any nuance to the series of sanctions being placed on Huawei, who is a large customer to not just Taiwanese companies but many American ones too. If you watched the Republican National Convention last week like I did, you would notice that “nuance” isn’t America’s forte right now.

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美国的工业未来取决于开源科技”(英文来源: Wired)

我的想法:这是我与Jordan Schneider(司马乔丹),ChinaTalk播客及博客的博主,联合撰写的一篇评论文章,上周发表在《Wired》杂志上。在这里再次链接一下这篇文章,并不是(仅仅)自我推销,而是因为我真心在乎想培育和发展开源技术,以帮助所有国家,所有人民去创新和适应一个日益由科技驱动的世界。无论大家有没有意识到,开源技术已经渗透到我们的日常生活。美国如何看待开源在其工业未来的前景(或是是否在看待),将是一个非常值得关注的话题。我在上周的深度分析文章中也着重指出,“中国对开源的姿态和做法也许是目前最重要的没有人关注的事情。” 这个思考视角可以用在许多其他国家和重要地区经济体上——所有这些国家和经济体都在努力的去寻找在一个代码和地缘政治紧密相连的21世纪里,自己的地位到底该是什么。

ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming, left, and Apple CEO Tim Cook at ByteDance headquarters in Beijing in October 2018. Photo credit: Imagine China/Associated Press 

TikTok创始人想知道到底被什么打到了”(英文来源: 华尔街日报)

我的想法: 我一直很喜欢看关于创业者、政治人物、发明家、艺术家和任何一个做着非凡事情的人的长篇写真。张一鸣,不管你对TikTok或ByteDance的感受或看法是什么,他都在做着非同寻常的事情,也因此受到了美国监管机构同样“非同寻常”的待遇。这篇写真主要内容是重新整理包装了在过去几个月里关于TikTok发生的事情。但也包括了一些关于张一鸣有意思的一些个人背景和经历。他今年37岁(比我大4岁),是中国新一代科技创业者的代表,他们的个性“更接近加州而不是人民大会堂”。他公开反对2009年发生的审查封帖浪潮,在一篇已被删掉的博客文章中呼吁大家“出去穿件支持谷歌的T恤。如果你封锁互联网,我会把我想说的话写在衣服上。” 当然,他当时只是个小人物,没有现在那么有影响力。这种个性与这一代的许多来自中国的创业者很一致,我在过去几年里结识了许多这类创业者,也和有些人共事过。他们的价值观更加“西方”,更“自由”。因此,他们的政治“负担”也比上一代的科技界企业家要少,比如马云,马化腾,李彦宏和其他人。这些上一代的企业家当时是在一个很不同的中国寻找成功。毫无疑问,在接下来的几个月里,TikTok的未来命运将会有更多的波折(最新的“波折”就是中国监管机构也看似要参与进来了)。但如果想把视角放的更远,那值得了解和记住这些创业者们自己的个人历史、他们来自何处、何时/如何长大,而是什么力量在激励他们去做他们所做的事情。

‘5nm产出率优于7nm:TSMC对其N5技术对外的最新信息”(英文来源: AnandTech)

我的想法:  台积电在业界领先的5nm半导体制造工艺正在达到量产阶段,并且似乎比其在开发周期中处于同一时间点的7nm工艺达到更高的成品率(换句话说:缺陷率更低)。台积电真的是很nb!使用5nm技术生产的芯片可以提供15%的速度提升,同时耗电比7nm芯片低30%,逻辑密度是7nm芯片的1.8倍。这款高端芯片将于今年末用在一些智能手机里。台积电还计划在亚利桑那州建立一个具有这种5nm工艺的工厂,预计耗资120亿美元,计划于2024年完工,这条重要的新闻我之前都错过了。美国的芯片铸造厂目前被卡在10nm的水平,英特尔也没有达到7nm。所以美国在这方面至少落后台湾5-7年!

From TSMC's 2020 Technology Symposium. Source:

终下决心!中国龙芯决定放弃所有美国技术,做真正的纯国产指令集”  (中文来源: InfoQ)

我的想法: 如果说美国的芯片制造业在苦苦挣扎,那么在中国的挑战则更为艰难,因为美国的制裁扼杀了它制造更先进芯片所需的几乎所有知识产权和设备。芯片IP的核心部分之一是指令集体系结构(Instruction Set Architecture,ISA)。简单点说,ISA告诉芯片如何进行计算,从基本的加减法到更复杂的矩阵乘法。看来中国即将加大对纯国产ISA龙芯的投入,这是中国科学院计算技术研究所开发的,所以是国产IP。如果成功的话,被称为 LoongArch 的龙芯ISA也许会帮助中国摆脱对英特尔和ARM主导的ISA许可市场的双寡头垄断的依赖,这个市场里也有一款开源选择叫RISC-V。(想深入了解RISC-V的朋友可以看看我前一阵子写的《RISC-V,中国,夜莺》)。当然事情也没那么简单:龙芯ISA在很大程度上源于MIPS架构,它则是款美国技术。美国商务部和CFIUS还没有对MIPS发表任何言论。起码目前还没有。。。

开盘暴涨66%,小鹏汽车:超越特斯拉,成为下一个丰田” (中文来源: 36氪 )

我的想法:  小鹏汽车在NASDAQ的IPO(股票代码:XPEV)是最近一串中国科技公司在纽约IPO的最新的一个。这些公司的上市继续反驳美国资本市场对来自中国的公司持谨慎或敌意的这种言论说法,包括:声网,贝壳,达达,Blue和理想汽车。当然,整个IPO市场总体也是非常红火的。一大批美国科技公司,很多是企业SaaS公司,上周都公布了S1:Snowflake、Palantir、Asana、JFrog等。特斯拉的市值不断膨胀,因为制造生产力进步和盈利能力的提高,也在推高所有电动汽车领域里的公司的市值。这篇36氪文章写了一些有趣的“八卦评论”,关于小鹏CEO李小鹏作为第二次创业者,他已经财务自由,在业界里有着与Elon Musk同样对产品有灵感的“教父级”美誉,而且有着沉着、稳重的长远眼光。在中国的电动汽车市场里,小鹏是与特斯拉最接近的一款竞品,尽管它目前的市额比特斯拉小得多。小鹏显然有很大的雄心壮志要实现,因此从长远来看,小鹏作为NASDAQ的上市公司这个地位是否有助于或损害其未来潜力,还是个未知数。最后在调侃一下这篇文章奇怪的标题:特斯拉的市值已经快是丰田的两倍。

芯片商联发科已向美方申请,希望继续供货华为”  (中文来源: 腾讯科技)

我的想法: 这条新闻引用了台湾媒体《經濟日報》的报道,关于联发科向美国政府的申请,希望获得向华为继续出售产品的许可证。联发科是一家台湾无晶圆厂半导体公司,为无线通讯提供晶片,是移动晶片领域的主要厂商之一,市值约300亿美元。这次申请的结果将是美国监管机构是否会对华为实施的一系列制裁在执行层面有任何“宽容”或有“细微差别”的对待方式的第一个例子。华为不仅是许多台湾公司的大客户,也是许多美国公司的大客户。如果你像我一样看了上周的共和党代表大会,你也许也注意到了:以“细微差别”的方式看事情,现在不是美国的强项。