Chinese chip maker Yangtze Memory Technologies Corporation has asked its American employees in key technology jobs to leave as it races to respond to new US export controls that are disrupting the country’s chip industry. .
Four people close to the company said it was unclear how many U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be forced to leave the YMTC, but several in China had already left memory chip makers.
A senior engineer at YMTC said some Americans were key to the company’s breakthrough in NAND memory chip production. “But there is no other way [them leaving]’ added the man.
Chip companies in China, the United States and Europe are scrambling to ensure compliance with the tough export restrictions announced by Washington this month.
Major US chip equipment suppliers Lam Research, Applied Materials and KLA Corporation have suspended sales and service to Chinese semiconductor manufacturers. The Netherlands-based ASML has told its US staff to suspend service to all Chinese customers while it evaluates sanctions.
The new rule requires any U.S. citizen or entity to seek permission from the Department of Commerce to provide assistance to a manufacturing plant or fab, relying in part on the expertise of U.S. engineers and scientists to move forward. Upending China’s chip industry’s key talent pipeline. that technology. This includes hundreds of overseas Chinese who were educated and trained in the United States before returning to their places of birth.
YMTC’s longtime chief executive and US passport holder Simon Yang resigned shortly before the sanctions announcement. The move was prompted by mounting Washington pressure on the company, two people familiar with the matter said.
Yang turned YMTC into a leading memory chip maker in China, largely with RMB 220 billion ($30 billion) in funding from the government. The company was looking to seize the chance to put chips in Apple’s iPhones this summer, but political pressure and new US sanctions clouded its prospects.
Three YMTC employees said Yang stepped down from his post in late September to become the company’s vice chairman. Recent U.S. restrictions have left his status at the company unclear, the person said. According to Chinese corporate records, Yang has remained with the YMTC for now.
Yang and the YMTC did not respond to requests for comment.
A person briefed on the YMTC turmoil said Washington’s export controls left the company with few options. “Forcing employees to retire is a necessary move for the company and the right move for the employee’s personal risk,” the person said.
Lawyers say the U.S. Department of Commerce is unlikely to issue a license to circumvent the rule.
“You either give up your citizenship or you quit your job,” said one Chinese semiconductor executive.
Another Chinese executive at a Shanghai-based state-owned chip maker said the company was negotiating the withdrawal of several Americans who did not want to part with their U.S. passports.
“For now, we have asked our U.S. staff to work from home until everyone’s situation is finalized,” the person said, adding that he also canceled job openings for U.S. passport holders.
“Now we are not only trying to build a ‘US-free’ manufacturing line, but we are trying to de-Americanize the team,” the executive said.
Industry headhunters said the rule would reduce the pool of talent available to Chinese semiconductor companies, which are already struggling to find experienced staff.
The Shanghai-based headhunter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the rule had “halved the number of candidates for senior positions at chipmakers and toolmakers.”
Americans dot the top of China’s leading semiconductor manufacturers and suppliers, according to Chinese business records. Wayne Dai sits on his VeriSilicon. Chonghe Yang heads memory his chip designer Montage Technology.
Naturalized US citizen Gerald Yin founded equipment supplier Advanced Micro-Fabric Equipment (Amec) more than a decade ago. One of China’s biggest hopes to rival California-based Lam Research, the company has a market capitalization of 61 billion yuan ($8 billion) on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
U.S. export controls have prompted Amec shareholders to post questions on the company’s website bulletin board asking for answers as to whether top U.S. executives would choose a U.S. passport or Chinese semiconductor development. rice field.
A representative for Amec declined to respond last week, posting a response saying that Yin and other users are currently “performing their duties as usual.”