China semiconductor imports surge to all-time high in March amid global chip shortage
- China imported a record 58.9 billion semiconductor units in March, worth US$35.9 billion
- That boosted the country’s total first-quarter chip imports to 155.6 billion units, valued at US$93.6 billion
China imported 58.9 billion semiconductor units in March worth US$35.9 billion, a new monthly high for the category, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.
In the first quarter of this year, China’s total integrated circuit (IC) imports reached 155.6 billion units, up 33.6 per cent from a year ago and worth US$93.6 billion. By comparison, first-quarter chip import volume in 2020 and 2019 totalled, respectively, 116.1 billion units worth US$72.1 billion and 87.6 billion units valued at US$65.2 billion.
The increased IC imports by China come amid a global shortage of semiconductors that has chip makers scrambling to supply manufacturers worldwide, including from the car and smartphone industries to those in the home appliances and personal computer sectors.
“We see three major factors that lifted the [chip import] figure this quarter [in China],” said Ivan Platonov, an analyst at research firm EqualOcean. He indicated that many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are “hedging against geopolitical risks” and that more firms can now afford extensive inventory because “the chip shortage has extended real product cycles”.
“With vaccination campaigns going on, many in the industry expect global consumer demand to rebound, which Chinese electronics companies don’t want to miss out on,” Platonov said.
In addition, he said most of the chips that China’s OEMs are stockpiling cannot be mass-produced on the mainland at the moment. “One example is volatile memory,” he added.
The country plans to use more chips designed and produced by domestic semiconductor companies by 2025 to mitigate supply chain risks brought about by US trade sanctions.
Still, China’s total 2021 IC imports are “highly likely to grow at a double-digit rate” from last year, Platonov said.