This issue covers the period between September 14 - September 20, 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 last week's deep dive post: "Era of Regulatory Grift: TikTok-Oracle, NXP-Qualcomm, Arm-Nvidia"

China’s first entity list may target foreign entities blocking Chinese firms' supplies: experts” (English Source: Global Times)

My Thoughts: This “Unreliable Entity List” emerging out of the Ministry of Commerce is perhaps the most important policy item to watch for the rest of 2020. Unlike the retaliatory tariffs during the US-China trade war -- an old well-established tool -- using an entity list to target specific companies or technologies is new for China. How it will be used to retaliate against U.S. sanctions of Chinese companies to appease a domestic audience, without inadvertently hurting the domestic economy will be the key. The companies in the “rumor mill” of this Unreliable Entity List are: Qualcomm, Cisco, Apple, FedEx, and HSBC.

SiFive to Debut RISC-V PC for Developers based on Freedom U740 next-gen SoC” (English Source: Embedded Systems News)

My Thoughts: Long-time readers of Interconnected know how strongly I feel about open source technologies, so much so that it’s one of the most popular tags of this newsletter. While open source is most commonly associated with software, it is increasingly disrupting hardware. RISC-V is an open source instruction set to design semiconductor chips -- a topic I’ve written about in-depth in “RISC-V, China, Nightingales”. And one of the fastest growing startups in the RISC-V ecosystem is SiFive, whose core business is generating RISC-V-based chip design IPs to license out. With this upcoming RISC-V PC product, SiFive is “moving up the stack” to generate more developer buy-in and participation -- a critical element for any technology to gain widespread adoption. Intel and Arm’s proprietary instruction sets became dominant because they each successfully incentivized developers to build useful applications on top of their technologies in PC/servers and mobile, respectively. RISC-V will have to do the same to be a serious open source alternative to the proprietary incumbents.

TSMC’s Estimated Wafer Prices Revealed: 300mm Wafer at 5nm Is Nearly $17,000” (English Source: Tom’s Hardware)

My Thoughts: this blog post contains some fascinating, granular technical information on the cost and corporate accounting associated with each stage of making a semiconductor chip. To be clear, the topline cost of $17,000 per 300mm wafer at 5nm density is an educated guess, not officially confirmed by TSMC. And while the number looks expensive, the post revealed that the cost per chip for 5nm is $238 versus $233 for 7nm and $331 for 16/12 nm. (In this comparison, the bigger the “nm” number, the larger and less advanced the chip, and usually the more power it consumes while delivering similar or less performance.) Combining this comparison with TSMC’s recent announcement that its 5nm chip runs 15% faster while using 30% less power than 7nm chip -- a ratio that’s bound to improve over time, it's 5nm wafer price seems no longer that expensive.

Build like crazy and divvy-up Lingang: Tesla’s China friends and their ‘self-cultivation’” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)

My thoughts: As I’ve written previously in “Tesla, China, the ‘Tech Cold-War’”, Tesla’s growing presence in China will have far reaching implications in US-China relations and the future center of gravity of several important technology trends -- self-driving, electric vehicles, and advanced manufacturing. This 36Kr article documents the rapid progress that Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory is making and the influence it already has on many layers of domestic suppliers. Stage 2 of the factory’s construction was reportedly completed in seven months, which is about half the time spent on similar projects. Meanwhile, current and aspiring suppliers to Tesla China are fighting fiercely for land to build their facilities as close to the Gigafactory as possible, located in Lingang in the outskirts of Shanghai. Elon Musk has publicly talked about Tesla’s competitive advantage being its advanced manufacturing capabilities, and gushed about China’s ability to deliver on that front in the most recent 2020 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. The symbiotic relationship between American tech leaders and China’s ability to meet their demands have done wonders to accelerate the Chinese economy’s climb up the value chain. Microsoft Research seeded the birth of cloud computing (the founder of Alibaba Cloud, Wang Jian, was a former Microsoft researcher). Apple’s iPhone fueled a massive ecosystem of efficient, high-quality consumer electronic manufacturers. Will Tesla be that next jolt to catapult China to the next level? How will domestic EV makers like XPeng, Nio, and Li Auto benefit from this massive tailwind?

Tesla Gigafactory in Shanghai

Bill Gates: if American can’t sell chips to China, America will lose high-paying jobs” (Chinese Source: AI Frontier)

My thoughts: The recent rumor that SMIC, China’s national champion of semiconductor manufacturing, could be the next victim on the U.S. Entity List was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of China's semiconductor sector. However, this article tries to drive a counter narrative that further sanctioning by the U.S. could hurt American semiconductor companies badly. The narrative is underpinned mostly by a Semiconductor Industry Association report stating that 73% of US-made semiconductor products are replaceable and a Bill Gates interview with Bloomberg that sanctions will cause America to lose high-paying jobs in the sector. I think China will still feel the bulk of the pain, by far, while American companies endure a few leaner years. According to a BCG report, American semiconductor companies could lose 8% of global market share and 16% of revenue in the next three to five years, if the current sanction posture is maintained. Sanctions tend to be a race to the bottom; this US-China Tech Cold War is no exception.

Is it our turn to step on America’s neck? China should veto Nvidia acquisition of Arm” (Chinese Source: Independent Blogger)

My thoughts: This is a post written by an independent blogger, whose blog is overtly patriotic. I normally don’t cite bloggers with a clear ideological bent, but this one was reposted by Tencent’s daily technology news portal, which garners a huge amount of traffic. The fact that this post was republished by Tencent signals a tacit form of endorsement, and reflects the mainstream public sentiment of how aggressively China should fight back, especially with the pending Arm-Nvidia deal implicating so many strategic technologies like semiconductor IP. If such a veto happens, it is but the latest example of a series of regulatory grift that I discussed in-depth in my post last week: “Era of Regulatory Grift: TikTok-Oracle, NXP-Qualcomm, Arm-Nvidia”.

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专家称:中国第一份实体清单可能针对阻碍中国企业供应的外国企业”(英文来源: 环球时报)


SiFive将推出基于Freedom U740下一代的RISC-V PC”(英文来源:  嵌入式系统新闻)

我的想法: 《互联》的长期读者知道我对开源技术是情有独钟的,以至于所有文章归类标签里,与开源有关的是最多的。虽然开源最常见与软件联系在一起,但它也正在影响硬件科技的发展。RISC-V是一个开源的设计半导体芯片的指令集——我在RISC-V,中国,夜莺那篇文章里探讨过它的特性。而在RISC-V生态里成长最快的创业公司之一就是SiFive,其核心业务是卖基于RISC-V的芯片设计IP的许可。随着即将推出的这款RISC-V个人电脑产品,SiFive正在往整个技术层“上游移动”,以赢得更多开发者和程序员的支持和参与——这是任何技术想获得广泛采用的关键因素。Intel和Arm的闭源指令集能占据市场主导地位,很大一部分是因为它们都成功地激励开发者在基于它们的指令集设计的硬件上开发有用的应用程序,分别在PC/服务器和移动科技领域里。RISC-V如果想成为一个成熟的开源选择,真正有能力取代现有的闭源技术,也必须这样做。

台积电晶圆股价显示:5nm的300毫米晶圆价格接近17000美元”(英文来源: 汤姆硬件)

我的想法:  这篇博文很很多有趣的,详细的技术信息,关于制造半导体芯片的每个阶段的成本和会计方式。需要说明的是,5nm的300毫米晶圆的17000美元这个价格,只是个有根据的猜测,台积电没有官方核实这个数字。虽然它看起来很昂贵,但博文也透露5nm的每片硅的成本是238美元,而7nm和16/12nm的成本分别是233美元和331美元。(在这个对比中,nm数字越大,芯片就越大,也就越不先进,通常性能相似或更低而耗电更多。)结合这个比较,台积电最近宣布其5nm芯片运行速度比7nm芯片快15%,而耗电少30%,而且整体性能以后肯定会继续提高。这么看5nm晶圆的价格似乎也没那么贵了。

疯狂建厂,「瓜分」临港:特斯拉中国「朋友」的自我修养”  (中文来源: 36氪)

我的想法: 正如我在《特斯拉,中国,“科技冷战”》那篇文章中所写到的,特斯拉在中国日益增长的影响力将对中美关系以及未来几个重要科技趋势的重心点有深远的影响——无人驾驶、电动汽车和先进制造业。这篇36氪的文章记录了特斯拉在上海的Gigafactory取得的快速进展,以及它已经对国内许多供应商产生的影响。据报道,工厂的第二阶段建设在7个月内完成,这大约是类似项目花的一半时间。与此同时,拿到(和想拿到)特斯拉中国的单子的供应商正在激烈的抢地建造自己的厂房,离位于临港的Gigafactory越近越好。Elon Musk公开说过特斯拉的竞争优势在于其先进的制造能力,并在最近在上海举行的2020年世界人工智能大会上滔滔不绝地谈到中国在这方面的能力。美国科技行业的“领头羊”与中国能满足其需求的能力之间的共生关系,为中国经济加速攀升价值链创造了很多进步的机会。微软研究院孕育了国内云计算的诞生(阿里云创始人王坚之前就在微软做研究)。苹果的iPhone推动了一批高效、高质量的制造商和供应链生态。特斯拉会是下一个将中国推上新台阶的美国科技公司吗?像小鹏,Nio和理想汽车这些国产电动汽车制造商也会从中受益吗?

比尔·盖茨:芯片不卖给中国,将来美国高薪工作没了”  (中文来源: AI前线)

我的想法: 最近的一条传言称,中芯国际可能成为美国实体名单上的下一个受害者,清楚地点出了中国半导体行业的脆弱性。然而,这篇文章试图想唱个反调,论述美国如果进一步制裁可能会严重损害自己的半导体行业。这一说法的主要依据是美国半导体工业协会(Semiconductor Industry Association)的一份报告称,73%在美国制造的半导体产品是可以被其他国家的厂商替换的,还有比尔·盖茨(Bill Gates)接受彭博社(Bloomberg)的一次采访时说,制裁将导致美国失去很多该行业的高薪工作。我认为中国仍将感受到大部分的痛苦,而美国公司则要忍受几年生意上的小挫折。根据波士顿咨询公司(BCG)的一份报告,如果美国维持目前的制裁态势,半导体公司在未来三到五年内可能会失去8%的全球市场份额和16%的营收。制裁往往是一场“往下走”的竞赛;这场中美科技冷战也不例外。

轮到我们卡美国脖子了?英伟达收购ARM,中国该动用否决权” (中文来源: 补壹刀)

我的想法:  这是篇自媒体博文,作者倾向也是很明确公开的爱国。我通常不引用有明显倾向或意识形态的文章,但这篇被腾讯科技新闻门户转载了,给了大量流量。腾讯转载这篇文章的事实表示了一种认可,也反映了国内对如何反击美国制裁的主流公众情绪,尤其是在Arm-Nvidia这笔交易中涉及到了许多重要战略技术,如半导体IP。如果Arm-Nvidia真被这样否决了的话,那即将是我上周的深入分析文章中谈到的“监管欺诈”的最新例子:《监管欺诈的时代:TikTok-Oracle、NXP-Qualcomm、Arm-Nvidia》。