In an apparent effort to broaden the country’s semiconductor manufacturing, the Chinese government is paying sizeable signing bonuses and offering housing subsidies for qualified experts in the field, according to a report from Reuters.
The incentives are said to be a follow-on effort to the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan, which was apparently shuttered in 2018 when the US began investigating scientists involved in it. Dubbed Qiming, the new program has not been widely publicised by China, which does not list it on official websites or publish the names of awardees, Reuters reported.
Whether the effort is will be successful is unclear, the report added. Some Chinese experts in the field who live overseas are said to be leery of returning home because of the political environment.
The idea behind China’s plan is to buttress the country’s domestic semiconductor industry. China’s share of the overall chip market is low, particularly compared to nearby Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. During the past decade, the government has taken a number of steps to change that, according to Gaurav Gupta, Gartner vice president and analyst.
“I think China only fully realised the relevance of the [domestic] semiconductor industry around 2010,” Gupta said. “Over the last 10 years, they have been investing heavily in developing that industry, so they have a good ecosystem for the fabless companies.”
China does have a fairly well-established manufacturing ecosystem for mature chip types, as well as associated packaging and testing industries, Gupta noted. But the country lags far behind the leaders in several other areas of the semiconductor world, most notably wafer fabrication equipment, advanced leading-edge chips, and electronic design automation.
That’s where the influx of new talent comes in, he said.
“They still need that talent and expertise and experience ..., and that’s why they want talent to come to China, whether it is Chinese nationals educated in the US or experienced people who have worked in the industry in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,” Gupta said.
Other countries are working hard to build out domestic semiconductor production — the US, EU and other western states have recently implemented business subsidies to incentivise companies to build new foundries and facilities — but Gupta said he’s unaware of any other programs providing subsidies directly to scientists and other experts.
“Chip experts are in demand, not just in China, but across the board,” he said. “There’s a big talent gap.”