China’s “Big Fund” Has New Head to Battle US Chip Export Curbs 2023

China has appointed a new head of a prominent state-backed chip investment fund as part of a fresh effort to pour money into the domestic semiconductor sector and combat a US-led blockade of the country’s technological progress.

National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Co., often known as the Big Fund, will be led by Zhang Xin, according to the Chinese corporate data service provider Tianyancha. Caixin reports that Zhang was a former officer with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technologies.

The Big Fund was tainted by an anti-corruption investigation last year, which resulted in the dismissal of its former leader and several other officials. During a time when the United States and its allies are tightening restrictions on China’s access to critical technologies, China’s top leaders have ordered investigations into the lack of progress in developing semiconductors to replace foreign imports, despite years of substantial government investments.

Beijing’s principal source of cash for the nation’s chipmakers is the secretive Big Fund. It was founded in 2014 and has invested in dozens of firms, including Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation and Yangtze Memory Technology Co. According to some observers, the fund largely functioned in secret and hid its investment requirements from public view, which undermined its accountability.

According to Tianyancha, Zhang replaced Ding Wenwu as the chairman of the Big Fund on March 10 and China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Phase II Co., another state-backed chip fund, the following day.

Zhang was a middle-level official at MIIT. The website of the ministry’s planning department lists him as an inspector of the first class. In contrast to Zhang, Ding was a former director of the ministry’s electronic information bureau and so held a higher position.

On the appointment, the ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

The Big Fund was quiet for a few months following the anti-corruption investigations, but it reemerged earlier this year with a promise to invest further in Yangtze Memory, the US-blacklisted leading memory chipmaker in China.

In an effort to make China’s economy more self-sufficient and resilient, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced earlier this month that his country will take aggressive steps to support the development of high-end manufacturing. He also overhauled China’s bureaucracy as part of a sweeping effort to streamline the country’s bureaucracy.

According to Bloomberg News, the Biden administration is seeking to impose additional restrictions on the export of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China, in addition to the broad restrictions it announced in October, in an effort to prevent the country from developing an advanced chip industry.

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